can my employer confiscate my personal notes, shared printer etiquette, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. How can we tell employees to stop commenting on confidential information?

My CFO has approached me with a problem I am hoping you can help solve. As in many companies, several of our employees are privy to confidential company information as a direct result of their job duties. For example, accountants might have access to sensitive financial data. Or, someone in the Safety Department might know medical information about another employee. How do we prevent employees from sharing this information (more specifically their personal feelings on the information) in conversation? I don’t mean they are gossiping about confidential information. The problem typically arises when employees are sitting in a meeting with others privy to the same confidential information. They make comments (often times snide comments) about something that doesn’t really concern them. For example, our CFO doesn’t need to hear an employee’s personal opinion about a recent company purchase.

My first suggestion is that the problem should be addressed in a conversation with individual offenders, but my CFO would like me to incorporate something into our confidentially policy. How do I say in a written policy, “Keep your snide comments and personal opinions about confidential information to yourself”?

Yeah, this isn’t really a written policy type of issue. As you said, it should be addressed individually with people — largely because that’s likely to be more effective anyway. People don’t always recognize that they’re violating a broad policy that’s announced to everyone, whereas it’s harder to misunderstand something like, “Please don’t handle X like you did in the Y meeting yesterday.”

I suppose if you wanted to have something in writing, it could be something like, “In the course of your work, you may be exposed to confidential information about employees, finances, and other sensitive areas. We expect you to use this information only as needed in the course of your work and to handle it with discretion and professionalism.” But you can’t really say “don’t share your opinions about it” without sounding really bizarre. That type of guidance is better suited for a coaching conversation, not a policy manual.

2. Shared printer etiquette and cover pages

I work in an office and about 15 of us share a printer. We are all printing a fair amount as we work with medical records. Every time someone prints something, the pages come with a cover page as the first page. People usually just rifle through, and grab what’s theirs.

About 1/4 of us have decided to forego the cover page when printing, as this saves a lot of paper. We don’t have recycling here because of privacy concerns with medical records. Recently, when I have gone to pick up pages from the printer, two coworkers in particular have muttered under their breath about “I don’t know what these pages are since they don’t have a cover page,” or something to that effect. These two people are the only ones that have made comments; everyone else seems fine with it and two people have even asked me to hook up their printer so it doesn’t print cover pages.

Management doesn’t mind how we print since they have their own personal printers. Also, we are all printing different things so it is easy to know what is yours vs. another person’s since we work on different patients’ records and the patients’ names are at the top of all the pages. Should I go back to using a cover page to avoid the comments? Or should I just say “I prefer to print this way”? Or just not say anything?

I’d either ignore it entirely or say, in a helpful/cheerful tone, “Oh, I try not to use the cover pages in order to save paper. Is it causing any confusion?” If it’s genuinely causing confusion, it’s worth being open to hearing that. Otherwise, you should feel free to explain why you’re doing it the way you are and then proceed with your method, just as they’ll proceed with theirs.

3. Leaving my job soon after coworkers attended my wedding

I have been at my current job – an entry level marketing position – for about a year. While I don’t necessarily dislike my job, I don’t feel that it’s the best fit for me. I’ve recently started looking for opportunities elsewhere.

Here’s my question: I am getting married in a couple of months, and invited three of my colleagues to the wedding, including my two immediate supervisors. If I were lucky enough to receive a job offer in the near future, would it be rude and/or offensive to leave the company right after they attend my wedding? I would hate for them to spend a whole day (and presumably give me a gift) only to resign shortly afterwards. How would you suggest navigating this?

Not rude at all. Them attending your wedding and/or giving you a wedding gifts incurs zero obligation on you to make any particular career decisions, including staying at your job longer than you otherwise could. If they’re reasonable people, it’s very unlikely that they’re going to feel put out that you dared to leave soon after they celebrated your wedding with you — and if they do appear to feel that way, that’s something odd about them, not anything warranted by you.

(That said, I will also float the theory that if these are people who you don’t plan to stay in touch with after leaving your job, they might not be ideally suited to be wedding guests, regardless. But that’s a different issue, and gets into personal preferences about weddings, and the horse is out of the barn on that one anyway.)

4. Can my employer confiscate my personal notes when my job ends?

Can an employer confiscate your personal notes, such as a physical notebook, upon termination of employment? While the blank notebook may have been provided by the company, the handwritten notes are all mine. The notes are work-related, but are limited to ideas, solutions, and business contacts. They contain no confidential information such as client data. Would this be employment or copyright law? Lastly, would it be different for electronically stored information, such as emails or documents stored on my work computer?

Yes, if it’s a work notebook, they own it and its contents. They also own everything on your work computer, and they own work products that you stored on your personal computer. U.S. copyright law includes a “work made for hire” provision, which says that the employer is the author and owner of work prepared by an employee within the scope of her employment.

5. After anonymous feedback, CEO demanded loyalty

Is it normal for an organization to send out requests for anonymous feedback of the CEO, only to have the CEO set up department meetings days later to demand loyalty to her and the company?

Normal? No. It happens sometimes, of course, although exclusively at highly dysfunctional companies. But no, a healthy organization doesn’t freak out when its management receives critical feedback.

{ 154 comments… read them below }

  1. LAI*

    OP#2 I also hate printer cover pages because of the wasted paper, so good for you for doing your part to reduce your environmental impact. I don’t understand why your coworkers are so confused – perhaps they don’t know whose pages they are because there is no cover page, but they only need to find their own pages which still have a cover page, right?

    Also, if you’re using this much paper, can you ask your employer about confidential recycling services? This is basically a locked recycling box with a small slot to put in your paper, and a service comes once or twice a month to empty it and take responsibility for confidentially recycling the contents.

    1. Cat*

      I get why they’re confused. They’re probably used to rifling through and looking for the cover page. Without that, there’s going to be a moment of “huh?” That said, I’m sure they’ll adjust and saying “I don’t know who’s pages this are” under their breath sounds like the most mild possible criticism or complaint. I’m pretty sure I say something like that related to some minor annoyance 18 times a day. Starting with “aaaah, alarm clock, I don’t even know why you’re going off.”

      1. Vicki*

        The issue ere is that, if your (cover-less) pages came out right after theirs, they may very well walk away with everything from their cover page to the next cover page in the set.

        As LAI has pointed out, confidential recycling is available (and has been available for well over 25 years.)

    2. some1*

      “This is basically a locked recycling box with a small slot to put in your paper, and a service comes once or twice a month to empty it and take responsibility for confidentially recycling the contents.”

      We have this service and I love it. Also, they should be able to come as often as you need.

      1. Windchime*

        We have this service as well.

        Because we are a medical facility, we have to sign a confidentiality pledge yearly. This pledge has wording similar to Alison’s example, but it also explicitly covers talking about any confidential patient information. Talking about or commenting on patient information when it’s not a direct part of patient care can (and will) get a person fired where I work. It is taken very seriously. So sometimes it is possible to put that into writing. I don’t get the feel that the OP works in the medical field, though, so maybe that’s what makes it different.

      2. Anna*

        I didn’t understand why they couldn’t recycle. We work with confidential client information where I work and we have a shredder centrally located. The bin gets emptied and the contents recycled. It’s a fairly common practice these days. The last job had the locked recycle box exactly like the ones mentioned.

        1. teclatwig*

          Yeah, my first thought was, “you are not recycling because your company isn’t willing to pay money for a confidential service, not because you work with sensitive material covered by HIPAA. We had one at my last (medical office) job about a decade ago, so this isn’t a newfangled service.

      3. themmases*

        We have the same thing– it’s great!

        When my hospital moved, we rented additional bins with wheels to handle all the paper that didn’t need to be kept or could just be scanned. Usually there’s a label on the side that identifies the bin as being for shredding of confidential stuff, tells you what you can put in it (we can put CDs in ours), and has a number to call when it’s full. It’s always been really fast for us.

    3. Stryker*

      Is there a way to code documents printing from your printer to have your name in the header or footer? That way, coworkers know whose it is without having to guess and without printing cover sheets.

  2. James M*

    #2: Any chance your manager(s) will share their personal printers? Or perhaps get another printer for your team? The idea is that one will be used only with cover pages and the other not.

    Now that you’ve tried it, ask whether cover letters are a reasonable price for convenience retrieving documents. Going green is usually a compromise… and sometimes the cons outweigh the pros.

    1. Puddin*

      I agree with looking into a second printer. In addition, some networked printers will add a footer or header with the user name on each page printed. Might not work with the docs you are printing, but saves paper and less confusion if it does. The same technique can also be employed using word or excel foots/headers and/or watermarking. Again, depending on the application you are printing from this may or may not be a solution.

  3. NutellaNutterson*

    #2 – Depending on what sort of work you’re doing, there could be privacy implications to not using the cover page. It’s not about management caring because they have their own printers, but about limiting others’ contact with patient information. I’d want to run this by your HIPAA compliance officer before making a significant change to how files are handled.

    And color me very surprised that you don’t have a giant shred-recycle locked bin next to your printer.

    1. Wanda*

      This was my thought also. Medical info going to a shared printer may require the cover page for HIPPA compliance. It may not but I wouldn’t make that decision without discussing it with the appropriate person.

      1. ChristineSW*

        Yup, had the same thought about the cover page, particularly if the medical records have the patients’ names right at the TOP of the page!

      2. NutellaNutterson*

        Yup, I’ve gotten paranoid about the Minimum Necessary Requirement. I’m also just really glad that I’m not a compliance officer. ;-)

    2. ella*

      Also came here to suggest the shred-then-recycle strategy.

      And this may be related to the fact that it’s 5:21am here and I don’t have coffee, but a good part of me thinks if your coworkers are having issues with how you print things, it’s their job (as problem-solving adults) to bring it up to you, not the other way around. But I can be really passive aggressive about not responding to passive aggression, while Alison is a Reasonable Adult With Good Advice.

      1. HappyLurker*

        “I can be really passive aggressive about not responding to passive aggression, while Alison is a Reasonable Adult With Good Advice.”

      2. Lynn Whitehat*

        I’m with you. If it’s confusing or a privacy violation, freaking say so. All this beating around the bush, “so confuuuuusing, with no coooooover, I wonder whose it could beeeeee…” is passive-aggressive nonsense and not to be rewarded.

    3. TheSnarkyB*

      This sounds HIPAA compliant to me- they’re all in the same office, and generally that means they all have the same access. Also, I’m sure the OP has thought of that. I think the coworkers who want cover pages are just being annoying and passive aggressive about it.
      OP, what about printing a blank page instead of a cover page, and then adding it back into the paper supply? It’s annoying, and I think you should stick with the system you have, but it’s an alternative that puts you somewhere in the middle.

    4. Anon*

      Adding to the chorus – why no shredder? Lacking a shredder or secure recycling, what does OP #2’s workplace do with outdated/accidentally printed/duplicate/extraneous confidential documents right now – save them all?

      1. bad at online naming*

        Yeah, I was confused by this as well – I used to work with classified materials, and we had a classified-materials shredder. Wwhich was frequently used for non-classified but still sensitive materials because it was a) way closer to most of us and b) a blast.) While I’m not positive it was recycled afterwards, I can’t see why it couldn’t’ve been.

        Also, I agree with TheSnarkyB about this probably being fine with HIPAA. I now work with a lot of medical information, and there are much less strict need-to-know policies than at exjob, or at least an assumed might-need-to-know that covers a lot. I can basically look at any patient’s information and it’s all legal.

        Now if the printer is accessible by people who shouldn’t have access to any of the information (like other patients), then it probably shouldn’t be at all. A cover page doesn’t actually help much with that. But IANAL/YMMV.

        1. themmases*

          Yeah, this sounded fine with HIPAA to me too. This sounds like the coworkers have similar job duties and could just as easily have needed those files as the OP. Granted I work in research, but it’s hard for me to imagine a patient care situation where people who work in the same office and division shouldn’t even know the names of patients in each other’s files. That’s an extreme level of confidentiality that probably wouldn’t be warranted except for a few special classes of problem where even knowing that the patient was there could stigmatize them (e.g. STD testing, mental health treatment, DCFS involvement). If that were the case, the OP’s coworkers would probably have private printers already. And even then, it’s not illegal to see information by accident if you don’t keep looking once you realize your mistake.

  4. Stephanie*

    #4 — One reason companies like to keep these things is for IP reasons. If there’s a dispute about who has priority for a patent, employee notes can be used to establish who came up with the idea first (and how many inventors were involved and to what degree). Of course, since the US ditched “first to invent” priority for patent applications a couple of years ago, this may not be as relevant.

  5. abankyteller*

    2: Your office needs a locked shred/recycle bin! Good for you for trying to do your part to save some paper.

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      We have one of those. Unfortunately it’s completely full and the recyclers haven’t been round to empty it.

      1. KatyKay*

        We also have one on our floor that wasn’t emptied regularly. We
        worked with Facilities to get it emptied/replaced on a regular scheduled, whether it was full or not.

  6. EngineerGirl*

    #1 – It appears that the discussion is among people who have access granted to them as part of their job, so no concern about it leaking to unauthorized users. That would be a huge deal.
    But it seems odd that the CFO is trying to suppress discussion because it is negative – especially when the data is absolutely a part of the job. There is a huge difference between making jabs at the company continuously, and not being happy about a company decision. A good CFO may want to listen to why people are unhappy with the decision, especially when it is part of their job (otherwise they wouldn’t have access to the data). Is there something the CFO overlooked? Or perhaps the CFO isn’t relaying the vision to the troops? But suppressing discussion seems to be a bit too controlling to me. If you want drones you’re not going to get any innovation.

    1. EngineerGirl*

      What I’m really trying to say is that the data **does** concern them, otherwise the employees wouldn’t have access to it. Saying they shouldn’t be commenting on it because it doesn’t concern them is illogical.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s possible that it doesn’t. For instance, if I fired someone, an admin might need to know that they were fired rather than resigning, even if we let the person publicly say they resigned — because she’ll need to correctly fill out forms for unemployment, among other things. She needs that info to do her job, but I wouldn’t expect her to be sharing her opinion with me about whether it was the right call to fire the person (assuming that she didn’t work closely with them and wasn’t a part of that decision). Or, if I’m giving a raise to person A, I don’t generally need to hear commentary from department B about that decision just because department B does the accounting and sees it when they otherwise wouldn’t — I expect them to carry out their accounting work professionally without using the info they’re exposed to in that work to argue their own agenda (beyond the advocating I’d normally expect a department to do in the normal course of business — which I welcome, but not when it’s built on information that their work gives them special access to and which comes with the expectation of discretion and professionalism). The OP also mentioned that medical info is among the topics being discussed, and it’s hard to see how that could possibly be appropriate.

        1. EngineerGirl*

          It’s possible that a persons medical condition is making his job harder as Safety officer. but then it needs to be explained to him that yes, handling special conditions is a part of that job and shouldn’t be resented. But that’s different than suppressing discussion.
          The part that concerns me is that the boss hasn’t taken the time to find out why the employees are commenting on it. In your examples, it’s pretty obvious – it’s personal data. But an acquisition? Maybe the troops see something that the CFO isn’t. It would be worth while to have a “why” discussion.

          1. IndieGir*

            This is exactly what I thought when I read the post. Wouldn’t a CFO WANT his accounting types to point out any potential problems with an acquisition?

            1. some1*

              There are better ways to handle that than snide comments in a meeting with other people besides the CFO, though.

              1. De Minimis*

                This doesn’t sound like it’s the type of constructive questioning that would be useful, though.

                1. IndieGir*

                  That’s probably true. But I also wonder about the CFO — if the comments were really snarky I would have shut them down myself right there rather than going back to a lower-ranking manager to try to get a new rule put in place. I’m wondering if the CFO is either interpreting reasonable objections as snark or (more likely) has created an environment where people are not able to have their reasonable objections actually heard, so they resort to snarking.

            2. Anonymous*

              Only if they are valid concerns. If it was “the sales woman clearly doesn’t know what she’s talking about because she was wearing a blouse from last season” kind of comment then the CFO should absolutely not care.

              But if the comments (the word snide is what makes me think they aren’t serious, hey this is A Problem kinds of comments) are like this then they shouldn’t be made at all.

          2. Gilby*

            I think that what the OP is saying is the people are saying stuff like…… ” Why did we invest money on that stupid XYZ computer program that sucks”… rather than… ” I have paid the invoice to Bob’s Computerland because her job is to pay invoices not critique the purchase.

            And if that person thinks the program sucks they need to say it better…. ” I have found some issues with the program.. has anyone else…? That might lead to a brief discussion and then someone can look into it.

            So the OP can talk to whomever and either say, ” if you have a concern about a process ( is it working within the context of the job ) , a purchase ( for example accountants worry about money) please bring it up , but if you are just commenting just to comment, ie… the program sucks, that person is a…… than it is not appropriate to say all that. ( or however the OP says it).

            The CFO doesn’t want to hear snide remarks. He wants to know the status of whatever they are talking about. Are the bills paid? Is the new program working? Is the new policy being written? Whatever.

            Someones job isn’t made harder because ” Susie” has a allergy and can’t be around “Billy” who has cat hair all over him. The problem is an employee who has allergies needs to have a cubbie change. It seems that people are making it personal and that is the issue.

            My guess is the CFO wants to get the issues, dicuss them and get them solved, completed and so on and no personal comments are needed.

            1. Jamie*

              That’s how I heard it, too. I knew someone once who commented on every single major purchase because in their view if they didn’t get the size raise they wanted the company shouldn’t be “wasting” money on new equipment, or building repair.

              Yes, everything from production machines which will increase capacity and revenue to a new roof was “a waste of money.”

              Just because you process invoices doesn’t mean you can bum everyone out with constant running commentary.

              And griping is different than discussing. If they’d asked they’d been told the new machine will save X in outside costs and generate more money in the end…or that it’s cheaper to repair the roof before it caves in rather than after. But they weren’t asking because they wanted to know – they were complaining.

              There are some people who seem to think businesses have an infinite amount of money and any denial of a request (or less than requested) is because people are being mean – not because there is actually a finite amount of money which needs to be spent for the overall good.

      2. Musereader*

        I work in an agency that has customers who’s issues that we deal with can resemble the jerry springer show because we deal with money and parentage. It would be easy to charaterise our customers as deadbeat dads and promiscuous money grabbers (which is not always the case). We were trained to put our personal opinions of customers aside and deal with the facts only. The kind of discussion mentioned in #1 is strongly discuraged (though still happens, because people are people) and totally should be because it is not our job to judge, only to collect the money owed and pay it out. I can also see that this can be a problem with other companies in which this is a not such a central issue, eg if an employee has an attachment of earnings for child support then the payroll people should (indeed are required by law to) keep this confidential because this is nobody else’s business

        1. LisaLyn*

          I was thinking it was stuff along the lines that you’re talking about. Or maybe the company is one of those that does credit checks as a matter of employment and so some employees have seen the credit reports of new hires and are commenting on them. I would find that unprofessional.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          The situation you discribe is a real problem. It is impossible to serve people who are continuously spoken of in a disrespectiveful manner. If I had to listen to terms such as dead beat dads and money grabbing moms all day, it would be a huge downer. I cannot imagine a work place doing well with in that atmosphere. In other words, the workers would be incapable of fairly serving the very people they are supposed to serve.

          The nature of the work is that the employee is dealing with individuals. Each individual has a story. When the employee routinely prejudges the story, then the employee is burned out. (Burn out rate is usually sped up by staggering work loads.)

          I see a take away here for OP to consider. What is the frequency of the complaints? Is there a negative office culture in place to begin with? (i.e. Do you expect negative feed back most times?)

          It is one thing to have an opinion but does the opinion have anything to do with company interests? For example: I think that Bob’s back injury is fake. Bob calls out all the time because of his back. I think he is soaking the company for sick time.
          In this example, as an employee this is none of my business. If I am Bob’s boss,or perhaps a benefits specialist then it is a part of my job to be aware of such possibilities.
          But if I am running Bob down in casual conversation this serves no purpose.

          People could be encouraged to think before they speak. Ask themselves “What is the purpose of my comment?”

          I cannot see how a written policy would solve this problem. Matter of fact, I can see things getting worse as people grow paranoid to say anything at all.

          1. Stuck in a bad job*

            My new boss speaks so disparagingly about our clients. The prospects “jerk us around” by asking questions. They are “@holes” who are “wasting our time” when they don’t buy.

            He has such an antagonistic view of customers and prospects – I have asked him why anyone would want to waste our time and jerk us around. People are too busy and they are not that vindictive. I cannot see how an adversarial attitude towards clients helps your business run better.

    2. The IT Manager*

      It really sounds to me like the snide remarks are the problem and not the fact the remarks are about confidential information. The fact that is is confidential is what the CFO is using to try and make a rule preventing the snide remarks. This is bad management just because you can’t really be successful trying regulate things like this.

        1. Musereader*

          There is an issue of confidentiality though, someone can in payroll can know that a person has an attachment of earnings for a debt and mention that to coworkers who are not in payroll. There are a lot of assumptions made about people with any kind of debt, none of them kind, but not all of them true, and some of which can be harmful to reputations if the wrong conclusion is drawn.

          1. some1*

            Yup, over the years in my admin duties I have opened mail about things like this and I never revealed to my coworkers what I learned.

          2. Anna*

            Except that the LW specifically said comments are being made about things people know that are relevant to their jobs. Accountants making comments about things, etc. So this isn’t about people speaking out of turn about things they learned by accident or shouldn’t actually know. It’s about comments being made about things directly involved in the person’s job.

            1. Musereader*

              Yes and payroll needs to know how much someone gets paid and what gets deducted, they don’t know why, and they shouldn’t comment or speculate on why because speculations get passed on as fact. This is how you get from attachment of earnings for child support to deadbeat dad who couldn’t care less about his kids so gets fired because of that impression, when for all they know, he has volunteered for wage deductions and he sees his kids every weekend. The amount of times i have talked to payrolls and they have questioned how much I’m requesting, whether too high or too low, it’s nothing to do with them, it’s between him and the agency, and they just need to comply

              1. Legal jobs*

                Not sure why my other comment was deleted. I responded saying there is nothing in the facts to suggest leaking of info .it indicates the opposite.

      1. AnonAthon*

        +2. Moreover, this really should be addressed directly and not passively, ie: through a policy change. It’s a pet peeve of mine when managers issue a blanket statement or rule change to handle an issue, rather than just talk with those causing the trouble — it’s frustrating and confusing for everyone else.

      2. EngineerGirl*

        I agree the snide remarks are the problem. So why are people taking a passive aggressive response instead of going to the boss and raising the issues that they see? From where I’m standing it looks like management takes disagreement as rebellion and tries to shut it down. If they sought out input then people may raise the issues they are seeing in an adult manner.

        1. Cassie*

          But sometimes those snide comments aren’t about raising issues that legitimately affect work. Sometimes they’re just snide comments. I don’t think it’s necessarily because there isn’t a proper channel to voice complaints or concerns. People who get into the habit of making these types of comments just continue to do so. It’s simply a habit that they haven’t grown out of. (I say this because there are people at the top of our org chart, who have the authority to make whatever changes they want, yet voice their opinions only in these types of snide remarks). They’re not really bringing up an issue and trying to find a solution, they’re just in the habit of constantly commenting on everything.

  7. minnow*

    #4 I ran into a similar situation at my last job, although in my case I’d paid for my own journal to keep a to do list while I was at work so I could look back and say what I did when and keep track of my progress. When my boss demanded I leave it at work each night, I didn’t say anything but I did call our state Department of Labor to find out if I could refuse. They told me since I bought it it was a murky area and we’d both have to hire lawyers to figure it out. I just never took my journal back into work and started using my employers materials to keep a slightly less personal version of the same thing. My boss did end up using it to keep tabs on me and read it when I was off work, which I found off-putting, but I knew that was the trade off I’d agreed to. (I have ADD and without a written list I don’t remember what I need to do at work.)

    Since you say that the notebooks belong to your employer, I don’t think you can argue that they’re yours rather than a part of the work your bosses are paying you for. They bought them and with your paycheck they’re buying the thoughts you put in them. I’d advise to keep anything that’s personal & not job related at home.

    1. IndieGir*

      Wow. As a manager myself, I can’t imagine having enough free time to rummage through my employees’ to do lists. How does a boss get to be that micro-managey?

      Even if I had an employee who failed to meet a ton of deadlines and did need micro-managing, I’d probably have a 10 minute daily status with them to keep them on track, not go about reading their to do list.

      1. AVP*

        I did this ONCE when I was saddled with a direct report who was terrible but good friends with the CEO, so moving her along was complicated. I literally couldn’t figure out what she spent her time on all day, and multiple conversations and daily check-ins did not enlighten me (trying to talk to this person was like sticking your head into a sewer and yelling). So I tried to look at her to-do list every night and…yeah. The problem with reading other people’s notes, especially if you don’t understand their work style or personality, is that they make NO SENSE. Way more frustrating than it’s worth.

        1. ArtsNerd*

          This is what I was thinking of. I always build up a stockpile of filled-out notebooks, but looking back beyond a few days, the scrawling doesn’t even make sense to *me.*

          At exjob it was rough, because I’d occasionally make notes on confidential info so I wasn’t comfortable just tossing them into recycling. I eventually just took a day to sift through and shred the old ones.

          1. Cassie*

            Me too – sometimes it’s useful to look back a week and see exactly when I did such-and-such, but anything beyond that is basically a toss-up.

            And yet, I can’t quite bring myself to stop taking notes… I’ve tried keeping this “done” list on google calendar so at least it’s more search-friendly, but will I really need to keep all this information?

        2. IndieGir*

          URGH. That sounds like the worst! But yes, in that circumstance, I could see looking at her notes.

      2. Jamie*

        Wow. As a manager myself, I can’t imagine having enough free time to rummage through my employees’ to do lists.

        This. I am finding the legalities interesting, but I’ve never run across this. If it’s not confidential or proprietary and it’s just to do list or taking notes learning new tasks this seems really draconian.

        Doesn’t mean it isn’t legal – but it would have me raising an eyebrow or two at the weirdness of it.

        1. minnow*

          My boss was a huge micromanager. And high enough up in the corporate structure that they got away with coming into work late, assigning me their tasks and leaving. So yeah, that left him with some extra time to read boring crap like that.

          I don’t think it helped, it did make me feel really awkward when I quit and my replacement was asking what some of my abbreviations meant. Finding out that they encouraged the people I managed to read my notes so they could do my job was infuriating.

    2. Colette*

      Even if you’d purchased the notebooks, I would suspect that the employer could make a claim to the information in them, since it related to the job they were paying you to do – especially if it was sensitive company information or new ideas that have monetary value.

  8. Jen S. 2.0*

    #3: Don’t overthink it. Your wedding is a much — MUCH — bigger deal to you than it is to them; they probably won’t think anything of the timing. You don’t have to stay there for another 5 years because they bought you a place setting. Any wedding-related obligation is over as soon as the party ends and you’ve written your thank-you notes. Not only that, but anyone who doesn’t want to come to your wedding for any reason, let alone because of anything at all related to your working relationship, is free to decline the invitation and thus not spend their day there.

    People leave jobs — especially entry-level jobs — all the time, for all kinds of reasons. In fact, marriage probably causes a lot of changes to workplaces — people move to be near spouses, people put their spouses on their insurance, people’s names change, people have babies and go on mat/pat leave (…and don’t always return), people have different demands on their time, and so forth. I wouldn’t be all that surprised by a newly married employee making changes. The fact that you want to make changes is the main point where you should be focusing work-wise; the changes really have nothing to do with your wedding.

    1. Liz*

      Hi, I’m the OP! Thanks so much for this reply, it really helped ease my mind. I’m terrified of being rude or improper, so it’s very helpful to hear that most people wouldn’t think anything of it.

  9. Jenny Wren*

    #2- If it’s a Word document or some such, could you just print out a blank page at the beginning of the document? That way it could go right back into the paper tray.

  10. EE*

    #4 reminds me of a recent day-to-day contract I had which ended with me getting fired. In my tidying-up time I ripped out all the pages I’d used from my notebook and put them through the shredder. So nobody got the notes.

    1. The IT Manager*

      That sounds kind of vindictive. They fire me; they don’t get access to work I did while they paid me.

      OTOH I have never had anyone go through my handwritten notes and my handwritten notes (what little I do take) would be useless to most anyone. I barely use even the ones I do take. I end up with a lot of info in my head.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, really. I am giggling because my handwriting is not the best and I abbreviate like crazy. My notes are never in neat outline form- they run all over the page with circles and lines connecting to other adjacent thoughts. Absolutely useless to anyone but me.

        1. Windchime*

          Same here. Usually it’s the act of writing something down that puts it firmly into my head. That doesn’t mean it’s written down neatly.

          But any real work-related notes I want to keep are typed into OneNote, and my OneNote file belongs to my workplace. I’m not sure why they shouldn’t have them; it’s all work stuff and I won’t need it if I should ever leave.

        2. Jamie*

          Ha – same here. I’d never shred them but good luck reading them – I have to type up audit notes immediately or I have no idea what I wrote.

          I really do want to work on better handwiting though, because my boss got me this cool pen for audits where as you write on paper it creates a file in phone or tablet where it takes what I’ve written and creates editable text. Pretty cool, if any of the words I’d written could be translated. I don’t know what language my pen thinks I’m writing in, but certainly not English.

      2. Anonsie*

        My notebooks never have any “work” anyone would need, just notes for me to remember things. So if they were confiscated I would feel kind of weird about it, like, what are they trying to find?

    2. Joey*

      Yeah that sounds a little like eff you. In the trash maybe you could argue you were trying to leave a clean notebook for the next person, but going out of your way to shred handwritten notes? There’s no way that doesn’t sound like a big middle finger. Fwiw this is the exact reason why some companies treat fired employees like criminals and escort you until you’re in your car.

      1. EE*

        I just wanted to wipe my 3 weeks’ there clean. I doubt much use could have been made of the notes.

        As for recycling vs. trash, previous jobs where privacy has been of supreme importance means it’s hardwired into me that documents, including any scribbles, are either active or shredded.

  11. Jen RO*

    #3 – I went to my coworker’s wedding a week before I left a company. It wasn’t a problem and I had a great time. I guess it also depends on the relationship – I was friends with the bride and we still talk every day. I would’ve gone to the wedding even I hadn’t been with the company anymore.

  12. Anon E Mouse*

    #4 – If there’s anything in there you want to keep, write it down in a different notebook or on a sticky note and take it home. I was once forced out of a job and they packed up my stuff and mailed it to me. I insisted they return my Rolodex (I had brought it in). They had one of the admins go through it to take out the contacts I had for that job. I guess their thought was that if I wasn’t working for THEM, I couldn’t have THEIR contacts (which might have been reasonable, except that I could have looked them all up on the internet if I needed them). However, the admin tasked with it left in a whole bunch of contacts for that job, but removed a whole lot of other contacts, including the ones for my brother and sister with their home addresses (we all have the same last name). It was very bizarre.

    Anyway, I was documenting everything they did before I left, and I made sure to take that notebook home with me everyday. I also didn’t leave it on my desk; I put it in my purse if I wasn’t actively writing in it. And I usually just jotted notes down on a piece of scratch paper and filled in the notebook on break or lunch.

  13. Anonymous*

    Have the rules about copyright work for hire changed recently? I was told repeatedly during my time as a professional artist that companies do NOT possess the copyright to your work unless they explicitly have you sign a waiver. I’ve seen a gamut of these waivers, some of which clearly state “work done in the course of business” while others try to lay claim to any ideas I might have during my tenure of employment, even if not directly connected to my daily responsibilities. I’ve also worked at places in roles unconnected to art that have asked me to sign them, so I would doubt that the laws are different for artists compared to “regular” employees.

    1. Chriama*

      Generally, the copyright for work that is paid for belongs to the person who commissioned it. I’ve heard of murky cases where employees develop something on their own time using skills or resources they had access to because of their work, and that can be a murky area.

      In general though, if your employer paid for you to do that work or come up with those ideas, they own them.

      1. Anonymous*

        In the United States, that is not the law.

        If you are an employee, the copyright belongs to your employer, for work done within the scope of your employment. The “scope of your employment” part is the murky part you mentioned.

        If you are not an employee, the physical work belongs to the person who commissioned it. The right to duplicate (part of the copyright) belongs to the artist, unless there is an written agreement that says otherwise. That’s why the photographer who took my wedding pictures can dictate how I use them, even though I’m paying him to take them.

        1. Colette*

          It’s important to remember, as well, that you may have signed papers when you started with the company restricting your rights to products you developed while working for the company, even if they were developed using your own time and resources. (I.e. the company would get “first dibs”, which they would usually only exercise if the product you developed related to their business.)

    2. A Teacher*

      In teaching (in my district at least), any curriculum I write for my individual classroom is mine and not the districts. Our union has that written into the contract. What I choose to share or not share is my decision. I do very generalized lesson plans that I submit and if I left my position, I would not leave my curriculum for a different person because a) it wouldn’t make much sense to someone else b) its pretty hard to convert some of the stuff over and c) its taken a lot of work to get my stuff where I want it, in teaching you usually have to figure out your curriculum yourself so a new teacher would know to expect that.

      1. Elysian*

        That’s terrific! Not all teachers have that protection in their contract, and I’ve heard of cases where people tried to sell their lessons plans or worksheets, or tried to take them when they left, and the district put up a fuss saying that the district was the owner of the work. It’s terrific that your union negotiated that for you!

  14. Anonymous*

    If the printer issues is because of confidential matters then can I suggest a password system? You send it to the printer, It holds the job in the queue and when you type your password into the printer it prints your job.

    However this does require newer, large printers that can use that software….

    1. Musereader*

      I work with customer sensitive info and we are required to set printing to ‘secure print’ so that nobody sees what they shouldn’t. We have to type in a passcode to release any prints we have sent to the printer, it avoids the problem of documents getting mixed up. But then I thought maybe in a small office it might be a small domestic printer that does not have this option.

    2. Ms Enthusiasm*

      I was coming here to also suggest locked printing. All of our printers where I work just do it automatically. In fact, it is a requirement here, we can’t just let things print. Check the preferences for the printer to see if locked print is available. Then you just need to go into details and pick your user ID and password.

      1. Cat*

        That seems like smacking a fly with a nuclear missile. The issue isn’t that printing isn’t secure – it’s that people are primed to look for the cover sheet and when there isn’t one, they get momentarily confused about where one print job ends and another begins and make a mildly grumpy comment about it. None of this necessitates new security procedures that will do nothing other than make everyone’s life more difficult.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I was wondering if the two complainers were aware that this is a new SOP. Maybe a note above the copier would explain and resolve the whole matter.
          “In order to save a tree, we will no longer be using cover sheets. Please carefully examine your copies to make sure you have your own copies, not someone else’s.”

          1. the gold digger*

            I would rather use a little more paper and make it faster and easier for people to get their print jobs. If not using the cover sheets increases the time it takes for someone to identify her print job, it might not be worth it.

            1. Dan*

              It’s not that hard to figure out which is your print job. We do it in my office and beleive me when I say there’s more than a couple of “dummy of the year” candidates in the mix.

              Using less paper is definitely worth it.

              1. Dan*

                Ha! Misspellings in a comment insulting the intelligence of my coworkers! serves me right :-)

          2. Cat*

            It’s not a new SOP though – only two people have done it. But I do think this is the kind of thing that’s easier if everyone is on the same page, so a note saying “some people are now printing without cover sheets – check your print jobs” would be fine. Or adjusting everyone’s machines would also be fine. Either would work.

        2. Anonymous*

          We recently got some copiers installed like this. They are GREAT. It isn’t at all smacking a fly with a nuke.

          Just because someone else has access doesn’t mean I do. I’m not allowed to see a lot of documents my coworkers have access to, before I was required to have the same access because of the printers, now I don’t.

          Plus it doesn’t print my documents until I’m at the printer. Which means it isn’t 1 page of my stuff, 3 pages of Wakeen’s stuff, 23 pages of Jane’s stuff with 1 page of mine in the middle. It is my 2 pages together and that’s it. No digging inside someone else’s printings to find the thing I want.

          1. Cat*

            I think this makes a ton of sense if you are in the situation you describe where only some people have access to certain documents. But if not, unless the technology is really finely tuned, it sounds incredibly annoying if people are printing a lot, especially if you’re printing a number of documents in sequence. (I am not sure why I have strong feelings about this but apparently I do.)

            1. Anonymous*

              It makes sense even if you don’t think about the security issues, you can send any number of your prints to the machine ( 1, 10, 30 it doesn’t matter how many or when you send them) and pick them up whenever you want. you still have to go to the machine to pick it up, but the 10 seconds it takes to select your staff number, type 4 numbers and press ok is far less time than it takes to sort through a pile of printouts.

              1. Chinook*

                Actually, I do a lot of printing ans secure printing is great partially because my dovs come out together and not mixed in with everyone else’s. I have taught half the office to use it (usually triggered in response to someone walking of with something they printed). It also has the added avantage for my boss who prints everything (she is very visual) in that she can print her docs while at home and pick them up the next day at work.

          2. CEMgr*

            Yes, I ADORE the “FollowYou” printing (i.e. send job whenever; it prints only when you’re at the printer releasing it). Addresses numerous problems at once: paper waste, confidentiality breaches, unclaimed printouts that clutter up the area for days, mixing of various jobs, loss of printouts, you name it.

            Very few downsides, except perhaps for huge print jobs at a printer a long way from one’s desk.

        3. Anna*

          It isn’t an over reaction at all. Not only does it pretty much guarantee security, it covers a lot of other things too. You can send something to the printer or several somethings and not have to hop up immediately to get the print job (print at your leisure, essentially). It means nobody accidently grabs your job. It also means if your print job is mixed up with someone else’s, they won’t leave potentially confidential information sitting on the counter until you can grab it. It’s a fairly easy and straightforward solution.

          1. Cat*

            But this is only true if you have sensitive or confidential information that’s in play. Otherwise it’s just another step to deal with.

    3. Colette*

      We have those printers, and everyone hates them. They may be necessary in some environments, but they’re not in ours, and it’s extremely frustrating to scan or copy anything.

      1. Musereader*

        I’m confused about that, ours don’t reqire a passcode to scan or copy, just to print, you set it for each printer you use and you can turn it off.

        It’s mostly so that nothing can go unclaimed on a printer and nobody walks away with something that’s not thiers.

        1. Colette*

          There probably are different variants. Ours requires us to badge in every time we scan, copy, or user the secure printing. The problem is that it uses our badge info to sync up with the network based on the password stored on the printer – so every time you change your password, it gets out of sync and you have to try to change the password using the touch screen. Since many of us use it about as often as we change our passwords, it’s incredibly frustrating.

          I’m glad there are options out there that are less infuriating.

          1. Anonymous*

            We have a badging option too but ours syncs with our AD so we never have to enter a new password. (Unless your password expired while you were signed in and when you went to the printer. Always change your passwords before it is required people.)

  15. Hugo*

    #4 – in the near future, Orwellian Corporate America will scan your brain with a “Men in Black”-type device that Google is probably making right now to extract any work-related thoughts you had during your employment tenure.

    In the meantime, you could save anything you want on a thumb drive and just hand in your computer with a smile on your face when you leave, or in the case of a physical notebook slowly make copies along the way.

    1. bad at online naming*

      Thumb drives were explicitly banned from the premises of exjob, as was the use of any external drive with any company computer. :)

      1. Jamie*

        Yep. If you want access to write to an external drive you need to sweet talk the people at the top before I grant it.

        It’s disabled by default.

        1. hamster*

          This sounds so mean. I really appreciate while there is a way for us to have shared files, folders, wikis, blogs, we have e-mail, and a repository for software, since we’re a technical department dealing with sometimes highly critical issues, ( us losing time , is our customer losing money) we have a lot of freedom on the computers. Like installing software/acessing thumbdrives, etc.
          That being said, since i discovered i can create a team wiki and a team blog ( on the company network) i stopped e-mailing myself all sorts of examples/stuff. The scrubbed tech things go on blog, the things that are useful to the team, not to me while i might encounter this issue again, on the wiki.

          1. Jamie*

            I don’t know why it sounds mean – if people have a legitimate need for it I assign them the script that enables file removal.

            If there is no legitimate business need then I don’t see the issue.

            1. hamster*

              you need to sweet talk the people at the top .
              That sounds like something “you’ll have to be really persuasive”.
              An approval process for a business reason is perfectly fine. This is how we operate also

    2. hild*

      Making copies is what I was thinking, too. I don’t know if that’s ethically wrong, but as long as it’s not proprietary information and you never signed one of those clause thingies then…{shrugs}…seems like an easy solution to me?

      1. Colette*

        I guess what puzzles me is this: what non-sensitive information would you possibly want to take from one job to another? The main thing I could see people wanting to take would be things like sales people taking contacts – and I would expect most companies would explicitly prohibit that in their employment agreements.

        Most of the stuff I make notes on is job specific and wouldn’t transfer. It’s the stuff in my head that’s valuable.

        1. the gold digger*

          I keep copies of projects I have done and of the data that supports my resume claims (ie, “Increased revenues 16% in one year”). I have used project documents in interviews before (not with competitors) and like having the documentation – for my own sake – of my accomplishments. I usually just email that stuff to myself.

          1. Colette*

            I can see that, if you haven’t signed a confidentiality agreement about that (and I assume you haven’t).

            Most of what I do would make no sense outside of context, but I can see that different roles could be different.

            One of my frustrations when I was job hunting as a software developer (and one of the reasons I’m no longer a software developer) is that some places want code samples. I don’t code for fun – I do it because I have a purpose for doing so – and most companies retain ownership of code and don’t allow it to be shared externally. So that would have been handy to keep, but I couldn’t usually do so.

            1. Lynn Whitehat*

              Really? I’m a developer too. I’ve had lots of places assign little programming tasks (nothing they would use, just stuff like “return the second largest number in a list”), but nobody’s asked for coding samples, exactly because it would usually be proprietary. (Even if it’s done on your own time for your own side project, that doesn’t mean you want to hand over the source to just anyone.) I sure hope this foolish practice doesn’t catch on.

              1. Colette*

                Yeah, and IMO, the most important part of being a developer has nothing to do with coding – it’s about how you figure out what to build.

                1. hamster*

                  Still, you have to test to see if they can actually code efficiently also. The difference between a great problem solver and a great problem solver with a great ability to track memory leaks, dissasemble code to make optimizations not optimized by the compiler, and generally being more skilled at coding are great.

            2. hamster*

              Also, I am not a developer any more ( but for different reasons) . But a true coder codes for fun at least some times.
              Geek out ended. But really, it’s easy if you encounter this to give them your stackoverflow account, or be part of a open source effort. The code is open there, and you get “street creed” also

  16. Ann Furthermore*

    #1 A few years ago I was on a team to implement a new HRMS system, and as the IT person I was one of the few authorized to see confidential employee data like SSN’s, salaries, and DOB’s. I was very, very careful with the access, because I wouldn’t want one of my co-workers or colleagues using that to snoop through confidential information about me, and therefore I owed them the same courtesy.

    With that in mind, I never accessed the base tables that held that information unless there was a business need to do so. When testing, I always used my own record rather than anyone else’s, and in cases where my own record wouldn’t suffice, I went out of my way to pick the record of a person I didn’t know. So for example if I needed to work in a test environment with something that required me to log in as a manager, I picked a manager I didn’t know, with direct reports I didn’t know, instead of logging in as my own manager. My view was that there was just some stuff I was better off not knowing, and things like my co-workers salaries were on that list.

    The other thing I did before I got too involved in the project was to have a little talk with myself about keeping my opinions to myself. I’m not afraid to say what I think, and I have a rather expressive face, which has gotten me into trouble before. So before this project really got going, I reminded myself that since I was going to be working on an HR project, chances were good that I would be privy to some pretty sensitive information. However, I was on the project in an IT capacity only, and it was not my job to provide input about HR’s policies, decisions, or their dealings with any particular employees. I had to just zip it and keep the commentary to myself. There were a couple times when I was copied on an email that had my internal editor screaming, “Are you bleeping kidding me?!” but by and large it wasn’t a problem.

    One of the project policies was to have regular security “check-ins” during meetings to remind everyone about the confidential nature of the information we were working with, and take the necessary measures to protect it. One of my HR colleagues summed it up nicely and said that when you’re working with all this sensitive information, immersed in it up to your elbows every day, it’s easier than you might think to become immune to its meaning and that’s when people get lazy or take shortcuts, which is when security breaches occur.

    Maybe you could start do something similar during meetings or via email with the people who see this information, and remind them of the confidential nature of the information, and how important it is to treat it with the appropriate care. You could also throw in something about how they probably wouldn’t want any of their personal information discussed or commented upon, so they should treat others with the same courtesy. Just a friendly reminder sort of thing. And then, if the issue does not improve, you could talk to people individually.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


      It’s a matter of manners, not rules.

      Having access to personal employee or confidential company information comes with a responsibility to use or not use it in a mannerly fashion. You don’t talk about other employees snidely and you don’t pipe up and tell the CFO he paid way too much for that last company acquisition, when neither is none of your beeswax.

      I’d have no issue confronting the employees, politely of course, and telling them that their verbal contributions are in poor taste. I don’t think you can add manners to the policy manual.

      People who don’t have manners, or can’t acquire them when corrected, shouldn’t be trusted with confidential information.

      1. some1*

        I agree. In my admin duties over the years, at times I was required to open every piece of mail that came through and I learned confidential things about my coworkers because of it.

        Keeping the info to myself was a no-brainer because if the situation was reversed, I wouldn’t want the admin telling anyone I had debts or was being sued.

  17. Anonymous*

    #1 – Is the stuff they’re complaining about valid? You shouldn’t just brush off any feedback thats not from the top boss.

    The owners at the place I work made an insanely stupid decision that all the frontline staff said was going to drive away customers. Of course they ignored it, because low level workers don’t understand anything, and now they can’t understand why 75% of their customers went to the competitor.

    1. Legal jobs*

      I don’t know all the details, but because it involves the CFO, I think your scenario is unlikely unless it is a tiny staff.

  18. AdAgencyChick*

    #3: Presumably you invited these people because you’re closer to them than others in your workplace and you intend to keep in touch with them after the wedding. If that’s the case, have at it!

    If you don’t think you’ll keep in touch with them after the wedding, though, I’d rethink that. I personally would be annoyed by a direct report who invited me to the shindig, I spend money on a gift and possibly travel, and then the person drops off the face of the earth. Then it seems like a gift grab rather than wanting to have the people you’re close to at your wedding. (But, then, that’s not just a work-related thing — I wouldn’t be thrilled with a non-work friend who disappeared after getting married, either.)

  19. Sascha*

    #5 – That sounds like my last job. And yes, the culture was very dysfunctional and unhealthy. That is why I left it.

  20. A Jane*

    #5 – For a minute, I thought this was a coded Game of Thrones reference. Time for me to get more coffee.

  21. some1*

    “Yeah, this isn’t really a written policy type of issue. As you said, it should be addressed individually with people — largely because that’s likely to be more effective anyway. People don’t always recognize that they’re violating a broad policy that’s announced to everyone”

    ….or you have the opposite problem and have you have non-offenders contacting you freaking out that they did something wrong that they didn’t know about.

    1. Jen RO*

      I used to work with someone like this. We started leaving her post-it notes on her desk with stuff like “that email wasn’t about you!”, because she got to work early and we knew she’d freak out.

  22. Kay*

    To OP #2, I once worked in an environment with shared printers. What the people in our office did to keep track of whose stuff was whose was to include a watermark on all documents we printed. To make things simple we would just put our first name in light grey at the bottom or somewhere inconspicuous. That way when we would rifle through the papers we would easily be able to pick out our own (and if we’re feeling kind, bring those that belonged to an office-mate or nearby coworker to them to save them a trip to the printer). Maybe this would be an option at your office to rid the cover sheets from everyone’s printing.

  23. LV*

    “But you can’t really say “don’t share your opinions about it” without sounding really bizarre.”

    That reminds me! In the Canadian federal public service, you have to take an oath (or solemn affirmation if you’re an atheist) at the beginning of your post. It goes like this:

    “I, [name], swear (or solemnly affirm) that I will faithfully and honestly fulfil the duties that devolve on me by reason of my employment in the public service of Canada and that I will not, without due authority, disclose or make known any matter that comes to my knowledge by reason of such employment.”

    I’ve always thought it’s so inanely vague. I can’t make known ANY matter that comes to my knowledge by reason of my employment… so does that mean I can’t tell my husband what my coworkers’ names are? Or what my work email/phone number is? After all, I only know that stuff by reason of my employment…

  24. Mason*

    #2 – Many printers have a feature that allows for different types of printing (like locked print or hold print) where the document resides on the printer until you release it. At my current job, I’ll send 4 or 5 items to the printer and then go to it and release them all at once. That could be an option for you.

  25. Mike C.*

    #5 What in the heck do you mean “demanded loyalty to the CEO and the company”? Did you have to swear some kind of oath, sign a document, pledge all of your armies and lands to the protection of the CEO or what?

    1. Positivity Boy*

      Yeah I don’t even understand what this entails. All I can picture is the Council of Elrond.

      1. Mike C.*

        If anything, shouldn’t loyalty be pledged to the board of directors or the shareholders directly? :p

        1. Cat*

          I feel like I had to sign some creepy pledge to uphold the California state constitution before I took an on-campus job at my UC undergrad, but at least that’s in theory an important foundational document (granted, one that has all kinds of ridiculous stuff in it).

  26. Ocat*

    #5 – I don’t suppose you work for an international NGO with an office in Washington DC? I’ve experienced this too.

  27. BadPlanning*

    On OP #2. I know if people stopped printing cover pages at our office…you’d greatly increase the chance of never seeing your printout. But that’s because we have a bunch of wall folders and when you’re in the print room, people take their printout and put the rest in the first letter slot of your name based on the cover sheet. If you don’t print a cover sheet, your printout is going to get swept up with someone else’s. We have 1 printer for a bunch of people…so if you just leave all the printouts on the printer, it’s going to fill up.

  28. ChristineSW*

    #2 – Second paragraph: “If it’s genuinely causing confusing…” should be “causing confusion…”

    (Apologies if someone already pointed this out…too many comments to quickly skim through.)

  29. ChristineSW*

    So now my comment about #2:

    While I think cover sheets is a great way to discern who printed out what, I can see how it can also be wasteful. At pre-gradschool-job, a couple people in my department would print out a bunch of one-page documents at once (e.g. an email, a short data report), each with a cover page!!

    1. Loose Seal*

      Apparently, I can’t read. I saw “pre-gradschool-job” as “pre-grade school- job. I thought you must have been awfully precocious!

  30. Anonsie*

    Oh man, I sure hope #1 is job hunting. That’s exactly the kind of attitude we need in a manager on Skull Island.

  31. Ruffingit*

    If you have to demand loyalty, something is very wrong with you. You’d be better off exploring why people don’t feel the need to just give it to you. Not that I think loyalty should be given in a work context anyway per say, but since that’s the word the OP used, we’ll go with it. Anytime you have to demand something such as loyalty or respect, you’re never truly going to have it anyway so don’t bother. Spend the time in the therapy you so clearly need instead.

  32. EvilQueenRegina*

    I once found out a coworker had a disciplinary because of something another coworker said, but I don’t think she actually realised what she was sharing with me at the time. How that came about was, we were going through a restructure at the time, and this coworker asked me how I’d got on, to which I said I still didn’t know what was happening about my job (I think this was the day before I got my interview slot to be interviewed for my own job). She was surprised that I was still waiting to hear and said “My son’s got a friend who found out he was getting laid off in that restructure last week, his name’s Apollo Warbucks.” (At the time, I didn’t know this guy personally as he was based at a different site). The week before, we had been told that anyone who had a disciplinary was automatically going to be laid off, and I put two and two together and realised that Apollo must have had a disciplinary, but didn’t say anything. I wasn’t sure that the coworker who’d told me that knew that this was the reason, and didn’t think it was for me to comment on something I didn’t really know anything about myself.

    In a twist of fate, I ended up taking on some of Apollo’s job after the restructure and he had to train me, and I played dumb about knowing the reason he’d been laid off. However, when Apollo later got offered a higher paid job in another department, a different coworker wasn’t happy that this had happened and went on to share in the office most of the details of exactly what Apollo had his disciplinary for, which I didn’t want to know. The first person didn’t realise but the second person knew exactly what she was doing.

    In the same restructure, I found out the date I was going to move jobs through the rumour mill – from what I understand, someone had a conversation in a corridor about it, and someone else overheard it. Thinking I knew, this person shared it with my coworkers and one of them asked me later “Is it true that you’re moving as early as January?” before I’d been officially told. That one, I thought was unprofessional on the managers’ part to have had the conversation in a corridor – it shouldn’t have been discussed where it could be overheard before I’d been told.

  33. OP#2*

    OP#2 here-so many great ideas in the comments-thank you to everyone who took the time to suggest solutions! I actually went to my manager to clarify this and she said “I wish more people would print without the cover pages since we go through so many!” She assured me it was fine, so at least I know for certain that management really doesn’t mind. She said it was fine to take other peoples’ pages and place them on the shelf above the printer, which isn’t sorted or anything but at least gets it out of the way. For the record, we work in a secured area that is HIPAA compliant, so no worries there.

    I guess it bothers me to print cover pages because we print a lot of 1 or 2 page documents and it seems wasteful. We have confidential shredding but no dedicated recycling bin (and even if the shredded paper is recycled, it seems more ‘green’ to just not print it in the first place…?) Anyways, people still have to rifle through pages to find their stuff regardless if there is a cover page or not. Since the patient names are at the top of each page, it is obvious which ones belong to whom. I think it’s one of those preference issues where there really isn’t a right or wrong way. It would help if people didn’t let their stuff pile up on the printer for hours at a time. I’m sure if we put in the folders system, then people would complain about having to file other peoples’ printing and on and on…there will always be someone who is not happy with a system.

    I like Alison’s advice about cheerfully asking if there is a problem. I think it is hard for me to address someone if they are muttering something under their breath in a negative tone as they leave the room. I mean, ideally, if it were*really* an issue, then they would say something directly to me. I was surprised when I started this job (my first office job) at how much the little stuff seems to pop up in office settings. This blog has been helpful to me in many more instances than this one :)

  34. Mena*

    #3: I am assuming you invited people with whom you have a personal relationship and being such, this relationship will continue when and if you leave the company … which makes this a non-issue.

    When I got married, I invited 5 people from my then-workplace, all of whom I am still in contact with 20 years later. At the time, I did not invite my boss, being that we had not yet developed a personal relationship (by which I deemed we socialize outside of the office and outside of work-related events). I’m unsure what drove the who you chose to invite but hoping it is something similar.

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