Coworkers Opened My Paycheck

Question:

I recently removed myself from direct deposit and informed the admin assistant. Payday happens to fall on the day I am out of the office and when I came to work the next day the admin assistant delivered my check that had both perforated edges removed and had been opened all the way. Even though my name and address are clearly marked on the outside, I was told by the admin that she gave it to another associate who opened it by “mistake”. Note: this is the 2nd time this admin has mishandled my personal info this month. What should I say in my complaint to human resources? I do not intend to let this slide.

Signed,

Not A Slider


Answer:

Dear Not A Slider:

You describe yourself as a “get ‘er done” kind of individual. Your “What should I say in my complaint to human resources?” implies that all you want to hear is how to you vent your anger to HR. It is clear that you want no advice that doesn’t allow for that. So do it: Ask for an investigation of the matter and discipline of the assistant who sublet opening your mail to one who opened your pay envelop. Don’t pussy foot. Don’t smile or minimize that “Perhaps it was a mistake.” You are an articulate individual.

You probably already have told the admin. assistant that for this to happen a second time is gross carelessness. But why bring HR into it? What do you expect HR to do that you can’t? What do you want done? Do you want your assistant to fear that another mistake would mean “three strikes and you’re out? Do you want him/her to feel your wrath? Obviously telling once was not enough. Your admin assistant apparently delegated the job without precise instructions. Likely, she/he now is much embarrassed. Do you want punishment or to spell out the dos and don’ts of handling mail so the “mistake” will not be made again? So choose your tact that will work best. Either you must open your own mail or effectively train those who are assigned to do it. Sure personal mail should be personal. But mistakes will be made and you must decide how hard-nosed you want to be. As you probably have guessed, I think you are making too much of this pretty much trivial matter. Most probably you think nobody should know what you are paid; to know what you are paid is an invasion of your very self. A workplace practice of keeping pay secret has long been a means to hire for the cheapest pay you have to pay to get a person. Pay secrecy also makes those at lesser levels envy those whom they think make much. If pay were more known within the workplace, I suggest, there would not be so wide a gap between those at the top and bottom. Saying this no doubt will cause you to think this Ask The Workplace Doctor is insensitive to organizational protocol and interpersonal manners, and that is your option.

What is more important to me is that you learn how to wield your tongue with sensitivity and consideration for those with whom you are angry. Do you think anyone wants to do what you didn’t want done? Do you think that a coworker’s error is necessarily carelessness? Those, who make mistakes and fail to understand, often is not as much their fault as it is the fault of those of us who think we have communicated perfectly. I am guilty of this as are many others. If and when I realize that misunderstanding is the rule and understanding is the exception, I remember that language is fragile and therefore it requires framing what I want differently. To realize that encourages each of us to engage those with whom we communicate to paraphrase and repeat what they think was said. My too long sermon is almost over. When we are as angry and frustrated as you seem to be it can us to sour and not be our best. We then can’t laugh or even grin about our own mistakes or failures. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Might this proposition affect how you communicate your frustration to Human Resources? If you understood this WEGO proposition, might it prompt you to handle this matter differently?

William Gorden