coworker is receiving personal mail at the office

A reader writes:

I’m the office manager for a national multifamily mortgage lender, and one of our loan originators has a side business. He is using our office address for his side business instead of his own home address or another off-site address. I’ve addressed this with HR and been told by his supervisor that “it’s acceptable” and to basically mind my own business, which the HR Department confirmed.

We are a private company, but are in the process of being acquired by a public firm, and oversight by a new HR Department.

The loan originator recently received correspondence from the IRS addressed to his side business (at our office address), and it makes me uncomfortable that the IRS is sending correspondence. It puts the company at risk on many levels — for our lease, for scrutiny by the acquiring company, for payment of taxes and local licenses — at our office address.

How should I handle this situation? The HR individual has since left our firm, and approaching HR again would be through a different individual. Or should I approach the loan originator directly, asking him to change the address for his side business before the acquisition by the new company is final, or I’ll be forced to bring it to the attention of the new HR Department.

Well, first, I’m not sure that you’re correct that this puts the company at risk on any level. Lots of people receive personal mail at their work address, with their employer’s blessing. This isn’t my area of expertise, but I doubt that the fact that he receives mail from the IRS at your office in any way obligates your company where his taxes or licenses are concerned. I could be wrong about this, but it’s worth checking the assumption.

In any case, it’s also not your call to make. It’s the company’s. You’ve alerted the appropriate people — his manager and HR — and they’ve both told you clearly that it’s fine with them and you should mind your own business. You need to accept that.

When the new HR department starts, you can certainly let them know that this is an issue you’ve been concerned about, that the previous HR department didn’t consider it a problem, but that you want them to be aware of it in case they feel differently.

But that’s the only action that would be appropriate to take. You shouldn’t go back to the guy himself, because you’ve clearly been told that it’s not a problem — so you have no authority to tell him to handle this differently, and in fact doing so would put you directly at odds with the people who do have authority over this.

Even if you’re right that he’s jeopardizing the company in some way, you’ve clearly been told to butt out. That’s pretty much what you need to do.

{ 96 comments… read them below }

  1. Anony Mouse

    If he is getting mail there for his business from the IRS, that means this address is his address of record, i.e. he is operating a side business out of his office. That’s really different from just receiving personal mail at work.

    It’s still not the OP’s business, though.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      That’s true, but I still don’t think it in any way makes the company responsible for his taxes. I’m only 97% sure about this though; it’s possible I’m wrong. But only 3% possible.

      1. Anony Mouse

        No, I wouldn’t think taxes would be an issue, but I could think of others. For example, let’s say he gets hurt in the office while doing something for his side business. Does he get worker’s comp?

      2. KayDay

        Considering that the management company/owners of an office building are not liable for the taxes of their tenants, my non-legal opinion is that I would assume you are right.

        Also, just because he is receiving mail at the office doesn’t mean that he is actually doing work for his side business at the office.

      3. JLH

        No, just because it comes to the same address doesn’t mean the IRS will think it’s the same company. I used to work a place that has fiduciary duties that files hundreds of client tax returns annually that are all mailed to the same address as the business–and they all have different TINs (tax identification numbers.)

      4. sharon powell

        No, I think that the Office Manager has a personal issue with this employee and is trying to find a reason that he can’t get his mail at work.
        There is no reason to believe that he is actually doing the side work out of the office, he is just receiving his mail there. As an office manager, I have to admit, sometimes we get stuck on the little stuff, let it go.

  2. fposte

    Urgh. It would tick me off something royal–we don’t earn our overhead in order to relieve somebody’s business of the burden of funding their own. But then we’re explicitly told not to do this.

    Aside from that, I don’t think it’s likely to be a huge problem–multiple-tenant buildings have the same thing going on. We did get followed by another business’s debt collectors once when we moved out of our shared building once, but that was random and also easy to ignore.

  3. Anonymous

    I think the sender-inner is concerned that if any issues between the IRS and this side-company arise, this could lead to the IRS showing up at their office. It seems that the writer doesn’t want the side business being associated with the company. This makes complete sense to me, not sure why HR/the manager don’t think it is crossing a line a bit.

    1. Andrew

      If the IRS shows up at the office, the company’s owners will either be OK with it or they won’t. If they don’t like it, they will presumably take whatever action they see fit in response. It’s no one else’s problem.

  4. KT

    I don’t mean to sound harsh but you really need to mind your own business! You raised the issue, and no one was interested. It’s time to drop it! I’m assuming you are not the only two employees at this place, so other people have probably observed as well and are opting not to get involved.
    Eyes on your own paper!

  5. AnotherAlison

    Someone else has made the call, but were they qualified to do so? I’m just thinking of all the things a first-line supervisor type might say yes to that an EVP would not.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Right, but she’s used both the options available to her — she’s escalated to both his manager and to HR. They’ve both directly told her it’s fine and even to mind her own business. It’s not something like embezzling, where she should continue escalating it. She took appropriate action, and now it’s on the manager and HR if someone above them has a problem with it.

  6. Anonymous

    OP, you don’t really have a remedy to this. If you think it’s opened your company to significant liabilities, then your only recourse at this point is to change jobs. This doesn’t, to me, sound like a jobs-changing magnitude of problem since you won’t be held accountable, but I suppose it depends on what the business does and what your role is.

    I agree that the company is showing bad judgement in allowing this. I don’t think it’s your call to make or your consequences to suffer, so after you’ve alerted people to the wrong-doing you’re off the hook. The only thing I’d add is, when you talk to the new HR to give them a heads-up, make sure it’s in writing so you can CYA if something ever comes of it.

    My company does similar stuff. People have personal mail delivered here regularly, and I don’t think it’s fair to pay the shipping staff on company payroll to store and deliver people’s personal Amazon DVD orders. We had someone start up a new company while using our personnel and supplies like this too, and that eventually blew up into a proper fiasco. It wasn’t a legal liability issue for our company, mainly drama and financial problems – we lost several important staff to this new company and our company CEO ended up in a several-year pissing match with this new company over it.

    1. Anon

      I think the occasional personal Amazon package is a totally different situation, honestly. Yes, it involves (miniscule) company resources. But on the other hand, you’re paying employees to be at your office all day instead of at home to receive packages, and letting them get a package at work helps keep your people happy and non-resentful about being there. Well worth it.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Agreed. And even more than the occasional package — I had a guy who lived in an apartment building where mail was frequently stolen, so I had no problem with him receiving his mail at work. I had another woman who traveled for work frequently so received everything at the office so that her mailbox at home wouldn’t overflow.

        It’s really up to a company whether they want to allow resources to be spent on sorting and distributing employees’ personal mail — there’s nothing inherently wrong with deciding that they’re willing to do it to make people’s lives easier.

      2. jmkenrick

        It’s common practice in my office for people to have their personal packages shipped here. I’ve never know it to be an issue.

        1. Kimberlee

          Same with my office. I’ve had stuff get ruined because it was delivered during the work day, and then it rained. Once was enough, I now have all my packages delivered to work (unless it’s gigantic… I do have to schlep it home!)

    2. KayDay

      ” I don’t think it’s fair to pay the shipping staff on company payroll to store and deliver people’s personal Amazon DVD orders. We had someone start up a new company while using our personnel and supplies like this too, and that eventually blew up into a proper fiasco.”

      There is a big difference in receiving mail/packages at the office and using company property for one’s personal shipping needs.

      1. Anonymous

        It is the minute one of our arrogant professors dresses down a shipping staff member for not handling his personal packages “correctly.” Then that staffer is getting screamed at by another employee for something that isn’t really in his job, and he has no real recourse because the higher-ups say the shippers can’t reject personal package deliveries.

        I suppose that if you have staff that are appropriately appreciative and respectful of this perk, it might be okay. I’d also expect, in that case, that the perk wasn’t being used to support a different business. Dealing with mail is a business expense that you shouldn’t be offloading on someone else without some sort of equivalent exchange.

        I also think it’s wrong because I know that these professors are turning around and watching the DVDs at work, which probably adds significant bias to my attitude toward receiving personal mail at work.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          But the problem is the misbehaving professors, not the perk. It’s like saying we should outlaw beer because some people drive drunk. You deal with the problem behavior directly.

        2. KayDay

          What Alison said.
          Also, from the OP’s letter, I’m guessing s/he has a similar set up to my office (a small organization in a big office building) where packages are delivered directly to our suite–so the only company resourced used from receiving a package is that a co-worker might have to sign for it.

          (I do remember that my university had a weird system for packages that caused packages to take an extra day or two to be delivered, so I get your point. But again, that’s a few professors being rude).

  7. Adam V

    OP, if this is really bugging you that much, the right answer might be to look for a new company. You seem to have a difference of opinion with HR and this person’s supervisor, and you’re still bringing it up, looking for validation. If you continue to bring this up internally, it’s going to look bad on you anyway.

  8. Katrina

    In my line of work, we can’t associate another business with our office without clearing it through several levels and it has to be compliant with so many governing bodies and our corporate structure. This is because of laws that stipulate how a person is compensated and by what means. (Which is not to say I don’t have Amazon deliver to me at the office.)

    I know that banking and lending have gone through several regulation changes in the last couple of years, so perhaps the OP thinks this is going to cause an issue with her governing body. But, in that case, she needs to get clear with the compliance department and not human resources. And again, if you raise it and compliance isn’t interested, get a hobby.

  9. Anonymous

    Wow, my bosses have all personal stuff mailed here, it’s distributed and we never open it. This person definitely needs to butt out. It’s not any of her business whatsoever!

    1. fposte

      It’s not personal stuff; that’s the problem. The employee is running a second business off of the first business’s infrastructure.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        But the company appears to be okay with it — which might be an odd decision for them to make, but isn’t it still their call? They also might have confirmed that it’s confined solely to receiving mail there, which doesn’t take many resources.

        It could even be an explicit arrangement with this guy — “I’ll work for you, but I’ll need to spend 15 minutes a day on my side business from the office.”

        1. fposte

          I totally agree. But I think Anon and some other posters were considering it a no-brainer because they thought that the employee was just getting personal stuff, and I felt that it’s a very different question when it’s actually running a second business off company resources. (Granted, I’m somewhat biased since it’s considered illegal at my office, because you’d be running private enterprise off of state resources. Which would never happen in Illinois.)

          1. Jamie

            That last sentence may have caused the first spit take I’ve ever done as a result of this blog.

            1. fposte

              Gotta love Illinois. I mean, where else would somebody put bribes to a governor on her taxes as a deductible business expense? (That’s back with Governor Kerner, for you young whippersnappers–we’ve been working at this for a long time.)

      2. Two-cents

        The only thing I got from the OP is that the individual is receiving mail at the office. Did I miss something? Is this individual doing more than receiving mail at the employer’s address? Most of the offices where I’ve worked have had no problem with having personal mail delivered to their address. And as long as you stamp your own mail, you can leave it with their outgoing mail. I don’t see a big problem here as long as the individual isn’t conducting his side business on the regular employer’s time.

        1. Cassie

          I work at a university and we’re not supposed to get personal mail delivered at work. There was an email memo sent out several years ago, but in reality, nobody really polices this.

          Also, it’s not easy to tell all the time if something is personal or work-related. I’ve ordered a toaster oven for a student who needed to heat some materials for his experiment. On first glance, that would definitely look like a personal order.

          Anyway, I’m reluctant to leave outgoing mail for pick up at work (when I put a stamp on it, or if it’s one of those prepaid labels) – aside from having the guy who picks up our mail being able to see who I’m sending mail out to, I don’t want someone to chide me for using university resources to send out mail. Yes, it’s just one piece of mail here and there (honestly, I think most people send very few personal mail these days), but you never know what staff will complain about.

    2. twentymilehike

      I work for such a small company that having personal stuff delivered here has never been a problem … until someone leaves and never does an address change. We STILL get mail for someone who not only left three years ago, but also passed away last year. Just this week I got three phone calls in one day for him. It can be really frustrating when people use the business address and/or phone number willy-nilly, but not when they are on top of it. I can see how it would be a huge pain-in-the-you-know-what for a really large company.

  10. Anonymous

    If I were HR, I’d have a huge problem with it. What’s not to say that this person isn’t making use of company resources to fund his own business? If he is getting mail at the office, what is to say that he isn’t sending it from the office on the company dime?

    AAM is right though, it isn’t your business. If the HR department is stupid enough to let it persist then so be it. Don’t get yourself stuck in the middle, lest you be known as a busybody or a nosy parker.

    1. Anonymous

      I used to have some books/packages delivered to my office because I was never at home. I don’t think that’s wrong. Who hasn’t done that?

      1. Anonymous

        There’s nothing wrong with GETTING mail at work, but sending mail FROM work that is for PERSONAL reasons using the COMPANY’S money can get you fired. It is like stealing office supplies. And I’ve terminated people who were using our FedEx account to send their eBay products to buyers, so it happens.

    2. JT

      “If he is getting mail at the office, what is to say that he isn’t sending it from the office on the company dime?”

      Ask him.

      But there is no evidence that he’s doing that, or even being deceitful, so I don’t understand the basis of your suggestion.

      1. Kimberlee

        It’s also totally possible that he IS conducting some level of business from his office… and that he is doing so in coordination with his boss and HR, and possibly even paying the company for the convenience. I seriously doubt HR would tell you that if it were the case! If it bothers you that much, just try to assume the best rather than the worst.

  11. bemo12

    Whether it’s right or wrong isn’t really the issue here, but rather why does the OP continue to pursue this after she’s been told to butt out?

    Why does she care so much if her higher ups don’t?

    Methinks nosy Nancy needs to mind her own business and drop this quick or find a new job.

  12. two times

    Start tossing his personal mail in the garbage.. I bet when he notices that he’s missing mail he’ll get a PO Box real fast

      1. jmkenrick

        I actually think this has legal implications for her. My understanding is that the laws around mail handling are pretty strict.

          1. jmkenrick

            Glad to know my understanding of mail laws was correct. We can just file that under “things I learned from Nancy Drew.”

    1. Anonymous

      That’s a pretty childish answer. She needs to butt out; if the company is ok with it, and she’s been told to butt out, she needs to do just that. And if it bothers her that much, she needs to move on.

  13. Ariancita

    There’s also the possibility that the OP doesn’t have all the information. I once worked for a place that couldn’t pay me as much as they knew they should. So part of my “compensation” package was that I could freelance on the side and use their offices and resources in ways that helped my endeavor. No one else knew of our arrangement (and no one asked, anyway). So there’s a big chance that OP doesn’t know what arrangement the person has with the company.

  14. Ariancita

    Alison: fyi, when I posted my comment, it took me a number of tries because I kept getting an error message that I was posting too many comments too quickly and to slow down. ????

  15. Jamie

    “We are a private company, but are in the process of being acquired by a public firm, and oversight by a new HR Department.”

    I don’t know how far you are in the acquisition, but at some point they will have an auditor crawling through everything and asking people all kinds of questions about fraud, processes, etc. There is almost always some vague question asking about anything unusual. If it’s bothering you, bring it up then. Then they can proceed as they will.

    If something is wonky the auditors will address it with tptb.

  16. moe

    Is there a legal department? Because I’m not sure this is just an HR issue–seems like something the legal folks would want to know about, too, just to verify there really aren’t any potential landmines. (I don’t know either way, but it doesn’t scream “personnel issue only” to me.)

    Because of the acquisition, I think OP gets one, and exactly one, more shot at addressing this. But certainly not by a threat to the originator to tattle on him!

    I’d be curious to know more about the hierarchy at the office–how much authority does OP as an office manager have, and who would get blamed if the arrangement did end up causing problems?

  17. Chocolate Teapot

    I have done the receiving parcels at work, but namely to avoid the vague being-stuck-at-home-because-we-will-deliver-any-time-from-8.30-to-12.00.

  18. twentymilehike

    This bugs me, also, but if the company is aware and fine with it, then I wouldn’t be concerned about it. I don’t think it’s wise of him to do it more for his own detriment, not the company’s, though.

    I review account applications and when I see that a company is using an email address that’s associated with another company it is a HUGE red flag for me. It indicates to me that I need to do some research to make sure they are a legitimate company, and at times, this has led to them being denied an account.

    I would think that if he has is own side company that it is rather unprofessional of him to be using an email addresss of another company. Also, doesn’t the company you work for have the authority to access the employees email? Why on earth would he want to risk anyone else viewing his personal email if its regarding his other business? Its none of the company’s business what he’s doing on his personal dime, but he’s making it their business by using their account. I just don’t think its smart of him to use it when he can have sidebusiness@whateverfreedomain.com.

    If the OP just can’t sit by and let it go, maybe in a casual conversation the OP could suggest to him that his side business would appear more professional if it had it’s own email account.

      1. twentymilehike

        Ooooh MY BAD. I read the whole thing, ALL of the comments and I still had “email address” stuck in my head. *facepalm*

        Let me revise my last line to say:
        If the OP just can’t sit by and let it go, maybe in a casual conversation the OP could suggest to him that his side business would appear more professional if it had it’s own ADDRESS/PO BOX. :)

        The same thing applies on applications I review–we DO check and see if the company has it’s own brick-and-morter location, but that is really only a big deal in some industries.

        And as a funny side note … one time I had Victoria’s secret ship a package to my office. Well my boss decided that he has the authority to open ANYTHING since he OWNS the business. Can you just picture myself and my female boss wrestling bras out of my middle-aged male boss’s hands in the middle of the lobby?

        1. Kimberlee

          The thing is, certain types of businesses and non-profits HAVE to have a physical location to put down as an office, and you have to get permission from the owner and fill out a form and get a occupational certificate of some kind to be in compliance… whereas, if the bosses have given him the OK, the office building he works at already has all that taken care of and it costs pennies to add “taking care of occasional mail for employee’s outside company” to their roster of activities.

          Though it is perhaps relevant, in light of your Victoria’s Secret story, that it’s generally legal for anyone who works at an office to open any mail sent to that office… even if it’s personal mail, once it’s sent to an office, it’s not longer personal!

  19. KayDay

    In this specific case, I agree that the OP should butt out. But in general, for perks like getting personal mail delivered to the office I think it would be fair, if the volume of the packages is causing real problems for the office manager, to politely mention it to the package-receiver. As in, “hey Bob, I’ve been having to interrupt my work very frequently to go accept your packages. Would you mind trying to consolidate or reduce the number of packages coming to the office?” (or some other possible solution, like telling Bob to go sign for them himself).

    My office is near the door to my office suite, so I tend to be the default package signer (we do not have a receptionist). I get packages too, so I don’t normally mind; but if someone gets something really heavy I’ll usually ask them to come and get it instead of bring it to them.

  20. Jojo

    In our company, we are actually told that we can totally send or receive personal packages at work. You just have to pay for the stamp yourself when it’s personal.
    And I get all kinds of packages at work: my online shopping stuff, Shoes, clothes, wine. Yes, wine, since somebody has to sign the receipt when it’s alcohol and there is alway someone in the mailroom.
    I also have a rental business which requires minimal correspondence (normally only when I’m getting new tenants). So sometimes I scan papers etc. at work as well.
    Well, I’m at work for most of the day and those things need to get done. On the other hand, I work at home in my personal time as well and often time don’t charge the company for that (I’m non-exempt).

    1. jmkenrick

      I don’t think we can *expect* companies to provide this necessarily; it’s their call, but I do think it’s a nice (and commonplace) perk that doesn’t seem reasonable to deny just for the heck of it.

    2. Natalie

      “Well, I’m at work for most of the day and those things need to get done. On the other hand, I work at home in my personal time as well and often time don’t charge the company for that (I’m non-exempt).”

      For what it’s worth, your company should not be okay with you doing this. Employees can’t voluntarily waive FLSA protections.

      1. Jojo

        “For what it’s worth, your company should not be okay with you doing this. Employees can’t voluntarily waive FLSA protections.”

        Guess you’re not as fortunate as I am in terms of workplace giving nice perks to its employees. The company brings in oil change service, dent repair service, and onsite laundry for us. Oh and how about free massage onsite a few times a year?
        We all work really hard tho and my company has always been voted as one of the best places to work for.

        OK hold on a second. I need to mail this employee discounted product to my friend.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Natalie meant that your employer shouldn’t be okay with you working at home without logging the time, because that’s against the law for an employer to allow non-exempt employees to do. The rest of it sounds lovely!

          1. Jojo

            Oh I’m sorry, I totally misunderstood what Natalie said!
            I really love where I work. And I’m not sure how it can be against the law when I’m the one not punching in. I know I can charge overtime, but since the company/my boss is being very reasonable with me, I just don’t feel like I wanted to, unless I have extreme work hours that could happen once a year.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Yeah, in my opinion the law hasn’t kept up with the times at all.

              It exists in order to keep companies from taking advantage of people by pushing them to work off the clock when they should be getting paid for that time. Legally, a non-exempt employee can’t waive their right to being paid for all the time they work, even if they want to. Companies are supposed to require non-exexmpt employees to log all their time, since otherwise it opens the door to employees being subtly pressured to “voluntarily” waive it when it’s not really voluntary at all. As a result, some companies have actually fired employees who work off the clock — because it can open them up to a lawsuit later.

              As I said, the law hasn’t really kept up with the times and doesn’t account for situations like yours, where you might do some work at home occasionally and feel that it balances out with the times that you do some personal stuff at work. That’s such a reasonable take on it, and the law hasn’t figured out how to accommodate that.

              1. Kimberlee

                I tend to agree… if a person really does want to work extra hours (or doesn’t want to take the trouble to note every 5 minutes they spend checking their email at home) there should be a way around it. But as the law stands, employers should be VERY strict about this. You can have a signed and notarized statement from an employee that they don’t want to be paid for that time, and a recording stating that they won’t sue, and they still completely 100% have the right to claim those wages later. There is ZERO protection for an employer who allows a non-exempt employee to work off the clock, so they should not allow it to happen.

  21. some1

    I sympathize with the OP, because this would seem like a company violation to me as well. But, like AAM stated, she has done everything she can about it. The only other advice I would give to the OP is if she has emails from the supervisor and HR person saying this was ok, I would print them out & take the copies home to CYA.

  22. De Minimis

    As far as the IRS issues, one of the major requirements for IRS agents is to maintain confidentiality, so even if they were to show up at the office they would not do anything other than ask to speak to the taxpayer–they aren’t even allowed to say they are with the IRS.

    With auditors, I don’t think they would care about whatever mailing policies a company has unless those policies could somehow jeopardize a company’s internal control system. I think even then they would be more concerned with the policies that involve shipping/receiving, not personal mail.

  23. Office Manager

    I’m the Office Manager that posed the question to “Ask A Manager”, regarding personel business mail delivery to a co-worker. The departed HR employee “promised” to inquire of our legal department about the liability of using our business address for an employee’s secondary business which 1) does not appear on our lease, 2) is not licensed in this County (as required by law and our lease), and 3) is now receiving notices from the IRS. Having worked in HR for several years, this is the type of issue that could become a legal liability with our new acquiring public company, and the primary reason I approached HR with the problem. The departed HR employee chose not to pursue the legal inquiry route due to her chummy relationship with the employee’s supervisor, and wanting to be a “team player”. I believe she should have asked our legal department to look into the issue, and if they were comfortable with it, so be it. However, she did not, and now she’s gone and she did not discuss it with her HR director.

    This isn’t about getting the occasion Thrift Books delivery, but more about legal liability with our lease, business licenses attached to our lease, and issues with the IRS; please understand that I was content to let the issue rest until the IRS mail showed up. Having worked in professional tax services for 13 years, IRS mail is almost never a good sign.

    1. Anonymous

      With the added info, I firmly believe you need to let this go. You’ve been told it’s OK. I don’t see how you know this is being used as the business’s address of record or as a mailing address and much of the above information is word-of-mouth. You may not have been told everything. (For example, it’s entirely possible that it was checked with legal at some point)

      It sounds as though you are frustrated at not having control over decision making. Have you thought about looking for a position (internally or externally) that would give you a higher level of supervisory power? From what you mentioned of your background, that might be the way to go, long term.

    2. AnonLawyer

      I disagree strongly with AAM’s advice here (maybe because I am an attorney and deal with lease issues all the time). If you are in possible violation of your lease and you know it, then I think it is your duty to raise this further up the chain and in particular to take this to your legal department. My suspicion is that they would take this very seriously.

      If you are in violation of the lease, one remedy for the landlord is eviction, and if they have issues with your business (like you are paying below-market rent and they could lease the space to someone else), they will take the opportunity to throw you out in a heartbeat. And trust me, the landlord will find out about the lack of license. Local governments are aggressively seeking out businesses who have failed to get proper licenses and are going after landlords if the business fails to get the license. And they do it by tracking tax records, in part.

      I suppose if no one would blame you as the office manager if you wound up being evicted, that’s fine, but you could be out of a job if your company has no place to do its business.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        But the OP hasn’t offered anything that indicates that this would put them in violation of the lease, only that he’s receiving some mail there. Those are two very different things.

        1. Tax Nerd

          For dog’s sake, butt out. I gave a number of clients who use their company address for their mailing address. (Or family member’s or a friend’s.) Either they work crazy hours, or packages go missing where they live, or they’re temporarily working out of the country.

          The IRS is not going to show up unannounced and start going after your company’s assets. A mailing address is just a mailing address. They don’t go after the UPS store where people have mailboxes. The IRS sends lots of letters, many of which are fairly benign. Even if things get far into a collections stage, they pull property records, and ib this case, they’ll see that there’s no there there.

          1. Tax Nerd

            (Eeep! I *have* a number of clients…. Note to self -don’t try to comment from Kindle Fire.)

  24. Angela S.

    At my previous job, all mail that came to the work address got opened by the mail room staff. Our boss had no problem with employees receiving personal mails at the work address, but we were told that even the letters that were marked “private and confidential” would be opened. If we were not comfortable having our mail room staffs seeing our cellphone bills and then some, we were warned to send the personal mail to our home address.

    Our boss opened the mail for “compliance” reasons. But you know, you can’t stop the mail room staff from talking about the personal mails that one gets. Sooner or later, whatever one gets become the office gossips.

    Just saying.

    1. Andrew

      As an ex-mail room guy, I can assure you we didn’t care. Beyond the name on the envelope / package, it just didn’t register.

  25. Henning Makholm

    I’m a bit confused — it doesn’t sound like anyone with actual authority over the OP has told him to leave the issue along, and conversely it does sound like it is actually his problem in the first place.

    If the OP is the “office manager” (I’m assuming here that “office” means one physical location, not one of several rooms at the physical locations), doesn’t that mean that he is ultimately in charge of the mail distribution at that office? In that case it would seem to me that he is a priori empowered to set rules about how that mail distribution is going to happen — of course being responsible to his own superior if the rules he sets do harm to the company?

    It sounds like the employee and the employee’s immediate supervisor are both in a lateral organizatorial relation to the office manager. How can they just tell him how he’s going to run the mail room?

    I suppose if the employee wanted to build a campfire on his desk and roast hot dogs over it, the office manager would be empowered to stop him, even if that employee’s immediate supervisor had said it was OK. Exaggeration aside, and recognizing that the propriety of campfires in an office is a less debatable question then receiving a few letters now and then, why should the division of authority in principle be different between them?

    1. Jamie

      Typically, although there are exceptions, Office Manager is an admin position and not usually lateral to other members of management.

      In this scenario if it’s like most offices here it appears she was overruled by those with the authority to do so.

      1. Henning Makholm

        Oh — I thought it meant that the “office manager” was the raking executive of that particular office,so that the reason why the trouble employee was not an underling of his must be that the company had non-geographic chains of command (in which case the trouble employee would be some kind of “internal tenant” at the office that the OP was boss of).

        Is it not synonymous with “branch manager”, then, or am I misunderstanding the latter term too?

        1. Jamie

          A branch manager is typically the ranking exec of a branch – reporting to the regional managers and corporate.

          If you get the American version of The Office Michael Scott was the branch manager and Pam would be the equivalent to the Office Manager although her title was receptionist.

          1. Kimberlee

            She became officially the Office Manager later in the series! She stole the position. :)

            Office Manager is actually the only position I can think of where the word “manager” is appended but it doesn’t imply that you actually MANAGE anything or anyone. One usually doesn’t have any power over people or policy at all.

            1. nonegiven

              My sister is part time office manager for a lawyer’s office. She hires and fires the office staff, as necessary.

              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                In a large office that has multiple administrative assistants, the office manager might manage them, as the sort of chief administrative assistant — but it’s not a position near the top of the chain of command.

  26. De Minimis

    I’m still not really seeing how the employer can get roped into an employee’s IRS problems just because they share a mailing address, unless there is some other connection between the employer and the employee’s side business.

    Legally I guess the risky part would be if in the course of conducting the side business the employee claims to be an agent of the employer, and that is known by the employer but nothing is done. That would probably be the main liability issue. Taxwise I don’t really know how the company could get dragged into it unless they were involved in something shady themselves, like creating a situation where it’s hard to distinguish between the side business and the employer.

    People get IRS notices for all sorts of things–many times it’s just a notice where the IRS determines they owe a certain amount of additional tax and they are told to either pay up or appeal it.

  27. Jennifer

    Several years ago I was cooperating with an investigation regarding a crooked accountant*. With the permission of my employer, I received some faxes from the state revenue department with “[My State] Department of Revenue – FRAUD DIVISION Attn [My Name]” all over the cover sheets. Even though everything was on the up and up, and we were actually the good guys in the situation, the person who manned the fax machine (not my boss) made a big stink about it being inappropriate, and when my boss and HR didn’t listen, continued to make a stink about me “using company resources for a fraud investigation” (she assumed I was the one being investigated) and made things difficult. I work in a HIGHLY regulated industry with internal and external auditors coming in and out all the time, and I’m sure a fax from a tax agency that said “FRAUD” all over it could have raised a concern, but luckily common sense eventually prevailed, and the person who couldn’t MHOB finally let it go. I advise OP to do the same. I would argue that fussing over someone else’s mail during company time is the real misuse of company resources.

    *We didn’t actually use the accountant’s services; when he prepared our taxes we realized he was bad news, got a refund, and filed our taxes on our own

  28. Cassie

    Hmmm, this reminds me – we had a collaborator who started his own company (I think it was a really small start-up) and he used our address as the mailing address. I’ve been collecting mail since 2009 – I emailed him about it a while back and he said he’d pick it up on his next trip. There’s bank statements, accountant bills, even a couple of IRS notices (although they weren’t stamped “urgent” or anything).

    I just emailed him a few weeks ago asking what address I should use to send the mail in (no more “oh, I’ll just pick it up next time”) – but the email bounced back! I’m going to have to ask my boss what to do with the mail.

    I didn’t even think about possible tax/liability implications (if there are any) to borrow an address…

    1. Tax Nerd

      There aren’t any legal or tax implications for the owners of a mere mailing address. The IRS has access to property records, and they really do check them before seizing assets. At any rate, most IRS letters are benign. You left $12 in interest off of your return, so we adjusted your refund by $3. You mailed your payment late, so you owe $18. That kind of thing.

    2. Laura L

      You can always cross out the mailing address as well as any associate bar codes (just scribble over everything, but leave the return address clear) and right Return To Sender and drop it in the mail. That way, it gets returned to the sender and isn’t really your problem anymore (I do this with mail for tenants that have lived in my apartment before I did).

    3. sharon powell

      Cassie, just bundle it up in a big envelope, and mail it to his last known home address. If the package comes back, make a file for it and drop the whole unopened envelope in it. There are no tax implications for your company.

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