Boss Took Personal Photos From My Work Computer

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about boss taking personal photos from employee’s laptop:

I had boudoir photos taken as a gift to my husband for xmas. While the photographer & I were working on editing and creating the album, the photos were on my work laptop. I took the laptop everywhere I went and then deleted them once we were finished. I never emptied the recycle bin. I just heard that my boss took the pics, made copies, and is sharing them with people. What do I do?

Signed, Not For Publication

Dear Not For Publication:

I know of several people who delight in going through the recycle bin when they use a computer someone else has been working on, so this will be a painful way to remind our readers about this concern. I can well understand that resolving your worry is more than face saving. Circulating those photos violates you personally. There is also the issue that someone who would do that has a thought process that is scary and creepy. Thus, I think you should proceed with caution about what you do.

The first impulse is to immediately go to HR or to levels higher than your boss and report this event. However, you may find the story is different than you are hearing. So, do a bit of investigation, THEN go to HR or the levels higher than your boss.Be prepared to answer questions related to how do you know your boss made copies of your personal photos and distributed them? Who told you? Did someone see a copy or was it just the boss talking? What is your workplace policy regarding use of your work laptop? Who is authorized to access it?

Answers to these questions will be sought if you request an investigation, so you will want to document everything you have heard, who told you and what they saw.One thing is for sure–your photos were in the recycle bin at some time. The date they were accessed in the bin will be obvious and an IT person or you, with a witness present, may be able to determine if anything was done to them, other than opening them. You don’t say what your relationship is with your boss otherwise. If he is actually giving or showing your photos to others, he’s not a caring friend.

Nevertheless, how you feel about him may determine how you respond.I don’t think it would be wise to talk to him personally. If you go to HR or a higher level and ask to have IT help to ensure that no files are on any company computers, that is more likely to ensure you will have access to all of his files.

Sadly, he may have them at home or others may have copies.But, by getting someone else involved his sneaky and inappropriate behavior will be known. My feeling is that anyone who would do that would do other perverse things given a chance. I don’t know about you, but I would hesitate to be alone with him, since his actions indicate a bit of a fixation on you. I may be wrong about that, but it’s something to consider.Our site doesn’t provide legal advice and this matter might benefit from a wise attorney who has knowledge of distributing others’ photos without permission.

You have a right to seek answers. Action you take will depend on what you learn. Be aware too, that you may be held at fault for having your personal material–especially of that nature–on a work computer. However, if I were you, I’d rather deal with that and have the person who took them get called to account, than ignore it to avoid a problem.Let me say this as a final thought: Anyone to whom your boss showed the photos will almost certainly think less of him for doing so, because they will know they aren’t his to distribute. Most photos of that nature are not tantalizing enough for people to keep and gaze at, so at the worst, someone glanced at them and won’t think of them any further. That’s not much consolation, but at least can help you find some peace about this matter.I do hope though, you will do what you can to ensure this kind of action doesn’t get shrugged off. Best wishes to you.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.