Manager/Supervisor Breaks Into My Office

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about invasion of office by boss:

I just moved into my new office that has a sliding glass window. A lock for the window was ordered and a lock was installed on the door. This is an HR office and one would have assumed that if the door was locked, the window was not an entrance! As I was leaving one night, a supervisor asked if she could leave some personnel files locked in my office rather than take them back to her desk. I let her know that I wouldn’t be in until 8:30 the next morning and she said it wouldn’t be a problem. The next morning, I found my office unlocked with the window open and a shoe print on the ledge in front of the window. The manager that I’d written to you about earlier (wants to only hire Asian women) was the one who broke into my office! He said the supervisor was trying to send her assistant through the window, so he jumped through so she wouldn’t get hurt. He said that because there wasn’t a lock on the window, that technically it was ok to use the window as an entrance. Supervisor agreed. They could have gone to the payroll office and someone would have let them in to get their files – but they didn’t even try!

This has now become an urban legend and all are appalled that this has happened, but the Manager and Supervisor have complained to my boss that I breached confidentiality by letting their bosses know about the incident. In a company of 150 employees, all news travels fast. Most companies would have fired these two and the matter is pending. My boss was very angry with them and they claim they are right. The employee, who was ordered to go through the window told me she knew it wasn’t right but had been ordered to – she’s been there 20 years with a terrific record so I believe her. By coincidence, both the manager and supervisor took the rest of the week off, so the matter of what to do is unresolved. Your advice was great before (by the way, an older, very qualified male was hired by the Controller, whom the manager reports to). What advice do you have for this kind of oddball situation?

Signed,

In HR


Answer:

DearĀ In HR:

If your personnel files are supposed to be safe, why are they not in a locked file? The ordered lock for the window should help but in this case that comes too late. That fact that occurred in transition to moving into your new office strikes me as an oversight you do not mention. How the break-in is handled is now up to your superiors. You apparently learned about who broke in, either by those who did it informing you or by asking about. The fact that you told the boss of those who did this now is history, as is their complaint about that. Whether the manager who helped/ordered the break-in is disciplined is up to your boss or someone other than you. Right?

So you can chose to make more noise about that you think these individual’s complaint was out of place and that those involved in the break-in should be fired, or you can let this matter die like urban legends do. I recommend the latter. It was not a break-in from the outside and those who did it did so for files needed, and the unlocked window seemed a simple solution. They did not think of the payroll office or thought this was simpler, and after all the files sought were not in locked files. Would it not be best to do what you can by going about your work as the professional that you are than to nurse resentment or fuel this breach of security? Might you put yourself in the shoes of those who entered your office? That is hard for you, I know, but you have made your point of how much you were angered by the way your office was entered. Now think of positive ways you might build a sense of WEGO– We are here WORKNG TO MAKE OUR WORKPLACE SAFE, RESPECTFUL, AND PRODUCTIVE. Do feel free to reject or choose action that seems best to you. You are closest to the situation

William Gorden