is my coworker justified in being angry that I reported him for sending out personal mail from the office?

A reader writes:

I work in an office with six other employees. There are two separate teams, one made up of me and a coworker, the other made up of five people. There isn’t much overlap in what we do, but we do work for the same boss and share the space.

Anyway, one day I noticed an employee on the other team, who overall does a good job, with a few personal mail items on their desk. It was apparent to me and later confirmed that they were using our office’s mailing service to send personal mail.

I told the boss who oversees all seven employees about this and they formally disciplined the employee. In the meeting, they told them that I had been the one to bring the issue up with them.

The employee is now angry at me, and keeps bringing up that I am out to get others and can’t be trusted. They are mad that I didn’t talk to them directly first and claim they had been under the belief that we could send personal mail occasionally, since we are also allowed to use the printer for personal items.

Are they justified in being mad at me? What should I have done if not this?

Well … yes and no.

It’s reasonable for your coworker to wonder why you didn’t talk to them directly first. If they really didn’t realize that they were violating a company policy, you could have simply let them know and (ideally) that would have been that. If that didn’t work and you felt strongly about it, at that point you could have let your manager know. But most people appreciate being approached directly before you take something to their boss, so they have a chance to fix the problem before the person in charge of their paychecks is brought into it.

There are some situations where it makes more sense to go straight to the person’s boss. Sometimes something is so serious that a manager needs to be brought in right away, or it needs to be dealt with immediately and the person isn’t around to handle it themselves. Or if the behavior is part of a pattern, you might not have the standing to address the pattern with a peer in an effective way, but their boss can. Or if the person is known to be hostile or defensive, it’s understandable to ask their boss to handle it instead; if someone is a jerk to their colleagues, they forfeit the right to expect peers will talk to them first.

But if none of that was the case here, ideally you would have just made sure your coworker knew about the policy by talking to them directly.

However, it’s definitely not okay for your coworker to be making such an issue out of it. Continually saying that you’re “out to get” others and can’t be trusted is over the top and disruptive. They can certainly quietly conclude that if they want to, but being openly hostile has to be messing with the work environment for you and others, and that’s not okay.

It’s also likely to make them look a whole lot worse to your manager than the original offense did, if your manager becomes aware of what’s happening now.

Out of curiosity, have there been other things making the coworker feel you’re out to get people? Like do you have a history of taking minor things over people’s heads, or of not cutting people slack on minor things or on things that your team norms are actually okay with? Alternately, does your team have an us vs. them culture where any actions that align you with management will get you perceived as an enemy? That last one is a big culture problem if it exists — and not a job I’d recommend staying in long — but it would put your coworker’s reaction in context.

Speaking of an us vs. them culture: formal discipline was a pretty harsh reaction from your manager, unless your coworker was sending out hundreds of dollars worth of personal mail or unless they have a pattern of “not knowing” policies they should have known. Your manager also shouldn’t have named you as the person who told them about it; there was no need to do that, and it was pretty much guaranteed to cause tension between you and your coworker (although your coworker’s reaction isn’t okay regardless).

{ 580 comments… read them below }

  1. Meg*

    It’s not directly clear in the letter, but was the mail already stamped and paid for? Because (to me) its even less of an issue, since they’re not using company money to send the mail. I’ve definitely dropped stamped mail in the outgoing mail box.

      1. Momma Bear*

        The only way I’d see this even remotely being a problem is if the person used the company’s postage. I’ve routinely dropped stamped letters in the outgoing mail bin at the front desk. I wonder if this is not the only issue these coworkers have with each other.

        1. JelloStapler*

          Exactly- I mean I would not drop handfuls of stuff in their mail (even if stamped by me) but a bill or a card – no biggie.

          1. Admin 22*

            Could it have been packages being returned, etc.? That would become a burden to the individual doing the mail run if the post office doesn’t do a pick up.

            1. Tio*

              Most major businesses have pickups, though. Even the smallest company I worked at with less than 30 people had one. I am so curious if they were using company postage, though. That would be a way different reaction for me

              1. Green Goose*

                I actually did this at my previous job when I first started. I was a lot younger, and less experienced on what was work appropriate based on the sort of odd places I had worked previously. I probably used work postage to send out about ten personal things over the course of 18 months. It didn’t even occur to me that it wasn’t okay, and I never hid it. I know now and am slightly mortified because well, yeah of course that’s not okay. It’s wildly obvious to me now, but at the time I equated it to taking a work pen home.

                But I still would have been pretty crushed if a coworker saw me doing it and instead of giving me a heads up that it wasn’t okay, chose the nuclear option of reporting me. And honestly, I would have never trusted that person again and would feel super guarded around them if I knew anytime I had an infraction there first action was to report it to my boss and instead of talk to me.

                1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

                  Is the price of the stamp more than the price of a cheap pen? Honestly if employees are allowed to print the occasional file on the office printer, I don’t see why they shouldn’t be able to post an occasional letter.
                  For me, OP is completely over the top. The employee was not doing anything at all bad, unless they were sending tons of stuff.

        2. vampire physicist*

          Same – I’ve never used company resources but I have dropped a couple of letters I stamped in before. I also used to work for a company that had some people with very demanding travel schedules, and so it was completely normal there for people to receive personal packages at work.

          1. Green Goose*

            My old job was also totally fine with people getting personal packages delivered. Most of the staff, myself included, lived in a high crime area so a package dropped off at someone’s house midday was likely to be gone by the time they returned home.

            1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

              I once worked as a receptionist and we had a part time employee who started getting her HSN packages sent to the office to hide them from her spouse. I didn’t mind the first few packages because they were small and came on days she worked. When get they progressively larger, sharply increased in frequency, and she asked me to take care of certain ones because they were fragile, I told our boss that I wasn’t going to do it anymore. My father, a postal employee, explained that anything delivered to the business could be opened by the business and became their property- and their responsibility- when it was delivered there. My coworker was a Drama Queen (TM) so I didn’t feel badly skipping directly over her and going to our (shared) boss. I don’t think the organization had ever run into this situation before, so there was no policy about it.

          2. On Fire*

            Years ago, we were allowed at my (state government) job to receive the occasional package — as in, the understanding was it might happen 2-3 times yearly. Until one employee started having all of her Christmas shopping delivered to the office, which amounted to several boxes daily. We were promptly forbidden to have anything personal sent to the office, which was better from an auditing standpoint anyway.

          3. Ellie*

            We get personal packages delivered to our work all the time. Package delivery happens during work hours and its way preferable to have people go to work as usual rather than having people sitting at home all day waiting for a package. I’m assuming the person must have been using work postage to post packages instead, which is kind of a petty thing but I can see why you might get a formal warning over it.

            OP, why did you report them though? Were you worried that you might get in trouble over it if you didn’t? Do you like your co-workers? It seems like such a minor thing to report someone over, unless there’s some missing information (like if they were running their own MLM business using company resources… that I could understand reporting).

        3. Anonymask*

          Exactly! At my place of work, so long as you pay your own postage, you can send things out from our mail room. They only care if you’re using company postage on personal mail. If I need something to reliably go out (because I’ve had postal issues at my home, long story), I’ll just stamp it and put it in the work bin.

        4. I Have RBF*


          Heck, at one company, if you didn’t have stamps, you just handed them the amount in cash and they would frank the package for you. There was a limit, of course, you couldn’t run an eBay business out of the mail room, but the reasoning was that it was a convenience that meant you wouldn’t have to take a long lunch to go to the post office to mail a package.

          But I always would check the company mailroom policy to see if that was an option, first. Sometimes smaller companies have too little to mail out and can’t keep their postage meter unless they throw it open to employees. YMMV.

          1. Reluctant Mezzo*

            Yes, our company loved us sending packages out under their UPS number if we paid the cost up front to the receptionist. We got the lovely corporate discount (God, how I miss it!), and they got a better discount from higher volume. Of course some idiots misused the privilege and it all stopped. Sob.

        5. Artemesia*

          And even then, you walk over and say ‘I don’t know if you are aware of it, but they are really strict about not using the postage meter for personal mail — you might want to get your own stamps so you don’t get caught up in that.’ or something. This kind of petty trouble making is not going to work out well in any setting.

        6. On Fire*

          Exactly. I know of a state employee who was found to be using the postage meter to ship personal packages (items they were selling/repairing). Apparently it added up to a hefty amount and was part of the reason the employee was let go.

        7. Another petty rules martinet*

          Somewhere buried deep in the middle of these comments, the OP added that the personal mail consisted of large manila envelopes that the co-worker used about $30 worth of company postage to send.

          1. Craig Lister*

            Whenever info like that is added after the first wave of judgment I call baloney sausage on it.

          2. Laser99*

            Isn’t there a letter somewhere about an employee who was fired for using the office mail for her eBay business?

        8. GythaOgden*

          Having been the post-person, I wouldn’t frank personal mail. I’ve been asked to weigh personal packages occasionally, which is ok because it takes two minutes and it’s not using actual money, but I stopped being the (non-franking) stamp person after someone did try and make reception her personal post office.

          We didn’t have a problem with either sending out personal mail in the same collection as franked mail but I would have been very firm with people had they tried to get us to actually frank their envelopes, and you bet if we found out that personal stuff was going out disguised as official letters we’d have a word with the person and if it was found out that they’d done it a lot, that would rise to disciplinary measures for us. For context, it’s the NHS and we’ve been asked to investigate a high bill

    1. Rage*

      Same here; it’s very common at my workplace to drop stamped mail off with the rest of the outgoing stuff. Of course, our mail person comes in to pick everything up. It might be different if a company employee was taking the mail to the post office – though, still, a handful of envelopes doesn’t seem like it would add that much work.

      I have to assume by saying “using our mail service” he meant “using our postage meter to stamp his own personal mail”.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        I wouldn’t make that assumption. I’ve worked in places where it was very much prohibited to put your own stamped mail in the mail bins.

        1. ferrina*

          That is WILD! I guess I can see it if there’s a large campus (though at that point the employer would be large enough to not care about a few dollars or cents in postage), but in an office of 7 people? Putting a stamped letter in the mailbox could get a formal write-up? What is wrong with this company?!

          1. Sandi*

            In my experiences with large tech companies they have mailboxes for personal mail! I can buy packs of stamps at our little campus shop. They don’t pay for stamps but it’s surprising that workplaces would limit outgoing personal mail given how rare it is.

          2. JelloStapler*

            I have worked at campuses- they didn’t care either. So I am aghast at places that have this as a policy and wonder what led to it (someone abused it?). Seems like a weird hill to die on.

          3. Fullaboti*

            I work for State government and we all were sent an email last year about not putting personal mail in the pick up bin. I’ve also worked for city government where you could have pre-postaged placed in a spot for USPS pickup, but couldn’t put it in the mail bin for third-party pickup. It does seem wild, but I’m sure along the way someone abused the mail pickup so now everything has to be done by the book. Luckily my building is within walking distance of a post office branch so it isn’t far to drop some mail off if needed.

          4. AnotherSarah*

            In public-sector jobs it can be an issue because it’s a personal use of resources. Not the stamps in this case, but the labor. (And it’s the slippery slope argument–one letter is no big deal but my org has thousands of employees, and if everyone did it, it really would make more labor for public employees and would be a misappropriation of state funds. That’s the logic.)

            1. Artemesia*

              And even so, then the OP should have alerted the co-worker to the policy like a normal person would.

            2. GythaOgden*

              Fraud accumulates because if the people who do it get away with it, they get complacent and it escalates. Better to have your knuckles rapped over a small issue than end up in jail because the liberties you took with company resources weren’t stopped until something major happened.

        2. The Prettiest Curse*

          In one of my offices in the US, we discontinued a daily mail pick-up I favour of having mail picked up whenever the postal service dropped off. This was because USPS charges for separate daily pick-up slots and we didn’t have the volume of outgoing mail to justify a separate pick-up. So your outgoing mail would just wait until something was dropped off, which could be a couple of days.

        3. Heffalump*

          To me it’s not at all intuitive why putting your own stamped mail in the mail bins would be prohibited. I’ve done it for years at many companies with no repercussions. If I were disciplined for doing it, rather than being told politely that it was a no-no, I’d be angry.

        4. RogueTrainer*

          At my current office, our outgoing mail is picked up and charged to the company account when it’s processed by the post office- while we apply the postage amount, it’s not charged until the post office gets it. So, even a stamped envelope in the outgoing mail would be factored into the total charged to the company. So we are not allowed to send personal mail out through the office channels or even by dropping stuff in the mailbox in the office parking lot.

          1. Jiminy Cricket*

            Thank you for that explanation! I have often wondered what the problem could be, but now I see it.

          2. LJ*

            I can see why that might be, although it still seems like it would be a nice low cost fringe benefit that also boosts productivity (instead of running out the door at 4:30 to get to the post office before they close, employees can work a bit longer)

            1. Slartibartfast*

              In the US, you can put a.note and money on your personal mailbox, and the mail carrier will leave stamps and change. My work schedule makes getting to the post office difficult.

              1. ThatGirl*

                You can?? I know you can order postage through the mail (or online) but I have never heard of anyone leaving money for stamps in their mailbox with a note.

              2. Kindred Spirit*

                Wow- I have never heard of that. Where I live (suburbs of fairly large city) mailboxes are often out at the curb and easily accessible to anyone passing by. No one I know even puts outgoing mail in their mailbox, much less payment of any kind.

                1. LJ*

                  Yeah that seems like it’s setting up a mail carrier to get robbed for cash. Maybe they do it in areas where it’s hard for folks to get to the local PO?

                2. anon24*

                  I once had someone send me a package but for whatever weird reason the postage was short and wasn’t caught when they sent it. My mail person left me a little official notice in my mailbox that I owed like 3 dollars and some odd change before they could deliver it with an envelope for payment. It felt so archaic and quaint to put actual coins into this envelope and leave it in my mailbox so I could have my package delivered, but it was far more convenient than taking off work and going to the post office. Until that happened I had no idea it would be an option! This was like 2 years ago.

                3. metadata minion*

                  @LJ — unless a *lot* of people are doing this or people are ordering $100s of dollars worth of stamps at a time, this seems like less of a risk than getting robbed for potentially valuable packages. People who are desperate enough to mug a mail carrier for $50 worth of stamp payments aren’t likely to not be thinking terribly logically anyway, but I just think it wouldn’t really be my first choice of target.

                4. Seeking Second Childhood*

                  @LJ Robbing a US mail carrier or even a mailbox is a federal crime, so I can’t imagine anyone thinking it’s worth it for thr chance of a few occasional dollars.

              3. jojo*

                you can buy online and have stamps delivered with regular mail too. or get stamps at grocery store.

        5. ErinW*

          I worked in both – first an office where you could put your own (stamped) bills and whatnot in with the office mail and nobody blinked an eye. Then in a different office, a VP made a Big Announcement about how she had found someone’s Netflix disc (yeah this was awhile ago) in the outgoing mail and it was Unacceptable.

          1. Gumby*

            Back in the day I worked at a small company where a some co-workers shared Netflix subscriptions (so like people A & B shared one, C & D shared one and E & F shared one). Since it was convenient to have the discs delivered to work, they all used the office address. At the time, Netflix was throttling disc deliveries if an address was going through discs too quickly so things got reeeaaalllly slow for a while until people changed to their home addresses and suddenly turn around times were reduced. Obviously using the office mail was not a problem for the company.

            1. Kay Tee*

              Ha! I guess Netflix has been trying to get us to stop sharing subscriptions from the very beginning.

        6. I Have RBF*

          Really? That’s just weird. At least where I’ve worked, the bins are marked post office bins, and it doesn’t matter where the mail in them comes from as long as it’s properly stamped.

        7. Hush42*

          That’s crazy! Long ago when I first started at my company I was the person bringing the mail down to the outgoing mailbox. People, one person in particular, would add stuff to the outgoing mail pile all the time. Things like bills being paid or Netflix DVDs being returned (no packages or anything) and it didn’t bother me at all. I had to bring down 500+ invoices to go out anyway a handful more wasn’t going to make much difference to me.

    2. RVA Cat*

      Even if they were using company postage, this still seems like “tattling” unless it’s excessive – in which case the boss would have noticed from the expense.
      To me this is like the co-workers who monitor when others arrive a few minutes late. You can’t care more than your boss does.

      1. D*

        Well, to be fair…if the coworker received formal discipline, it doesn’t sound like OP does care more than their boss.

        1. Throwaway Account*

          I take “you can’t care more than your boss does” in this situation to mean, the boss did not care enough to look for it so the OP should probably not have been doing the boss’s job for them.

          Especially in a punitive environment where the boss is going to react like she did.

          1. KHB*

            It’s not necessarily “the boss’s job” to constantly monitor everyone for rule violations. The boss probably doesn’t have the bandwidth for that. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the rules aren’t important.

            Here, I’m mentally substituting “don’t send personal mail from the office” with a rule that IS more obviously important, like “double-check the numbers on your TPS reports before you release them to the world.” In this story, I think we need more information about whether sending personal mail from the office is really a discipline-worthy offense.

            1. Throwaway Account*

              It would have been clearer for me to have said, systems in place to discover or find out that someone was using the mail for personal letters. If the boss cared, she would have had a system in place (even a posted policy) to address this.

              In my last workplace, we were not allowed to use the mail for our stamped personal letters. But someone was in charge of the mail and would eventually notice and let the person know not to do that.

              1. Hannah Lee*

                This makes SO much more sense than random employee A noticing something that random employee B is doing that has NOTHING to do with A’s job responsibilities.

                If it’s an issue, the person responsible for the outgoing mail process will notice it.

                I’ve never had an issue anyplace I’ve worked with people added mail with stamps/prepaid postage into the company mail stream. (Likely because it doesn’t materially change the volume of outgoing mail)

                In one of my first jobs, in a mailroom, there was an issue of people wanting to run their personal mail through the company postage machine. Though even then we just typically asked them to put 20 cents or whatever into petty cash,

                There was the annoyance every April 15th having to explain to employees that, why no, having a company meter’s franking mark that says April 15th DOESN’T count when the IRS requires an April 15th postmark on your taxes. You still have to get the envelope to the post office before it closes, so that THEY can POSTMARK it.

                Also there’s a special place … somewhere … for that one dude who every year both refused to believe that and also would roll in on April 16th and try to badger me or another mail room employee into rolling the postage machine’s date back a day. Which IIRC both violated the company’s terms for having an onsite meter from the USPS AND broke the law AND would get him absolutely no pass on mailing his tax return late (because it still wasn’t an actual postmark) Even 24 year old me knew you did NOT invite trouble from the ol’ postal inspectors … and I certainly didn’t want to get our meter taken away because then I would have to carry all the mail to the post office every day.

            1. GythaOgden*

              Yeah — fraud snowballs when even very minor instances of it aren’t caught and dealt with seriously. The value of the items — multiple $30s on the company bill — would be queried by the post room but would probably also get the employee spoken to quite severely as well, whoever reported it.

              As the person in charge of audits, you bet we’d flag something that looked hinky even if we didn’t know who’d done it. Given that in the US people have to put a return address on packages, it would have been flagged by us if not by OP.

      2. Jade*

        Agree. Unless it was egregious stay out if it. Has OP ever taken home a company pen, used the printer? Stapled a personal document with the company stapler? Used an envelope? If someone is going to report they better watch their own behavior. Because pretty sure OP is being watched now.

        1. AnonForThis*

          In one of my past jobs, the CEO (a billionaire) went off on a long tangent in a 10,000-person staff meeting about people stealing company pens. They cost almost an entire dollar each! She pointed out that she, as the company owner, only took home the pens that were broken or leaked.

            1. Devious Planner*

              Yea, but in a 10,000 person company, $10,000 is basically a rounding error. And also… it’s pens. You need pens, we all need pens, and pens float around, get put in pockets and bags, dry up, and break. $10,000 a year in lost pens is just the cost of doing business.

              1. anononon*

                Some billionaires seem to be penny pinchers, ironically enough. Maybe only the Scrooges of the world can be billionaires. I guess I don’t want to be a billionaire then!

          1. Be Gneiss*

            We got a speech like this at OldJob during the great toilet paper shortage of 2020. The TP in question was the absolute cheapest 1-ply paper available, and if people had to resort to stealing it, I could only assume they had run out of corncobs and outdated farmer’s almanacs at home and this was their last resort. No way was I going to police that.

            1. Rebecca*

              I remember the great Tampax caper of 1992, as told by my mother (I was in middle school). There was a tampon machine in the bathroom that dispensed free tampons. Those ones in the tubes, if you’re old enough to remember.

              Someone kept emptying out the entire machine, so they simply restocked the machine with 4 tampons every night. It wasn’t a huge office, and most people don’t need emergency tampons. The 4 tampons continued to go missing each night.

              So they set the machine to require a dime and left 2 dimes on the top of the machine. That solved the machine theft problem for about a week.

              The thief then discovered that the tubes were in a giant box under the sink. Five boxes, actually.

              By pure happenstance, my mom had to go into the office for some sort of network issue at 8pm on a Thursday. Her 62 year old male, unmarried, childless, C Suite boss was the tampon thief. She caught him carrying the giant, industrial sized boxes of tampons in tubes to his car.

              1. KattieKat*

                This is absolutely wild. Was he… reselling them!? Dumping them because he was resentful about women in the office having them?! Whatttt.

              2. myfanwy*

                I… Even a trans man would not possibly have had a use for them at age 62, surely. What, what, what was he planning to do with them?? I’m going to be wondering about this on my death bed.

            2. Ellie*

              We got the same thing in an email… it was pretty mild though. Just reminding people that they know it was tough, but if everyone takes the toilet paper home, there will be none left at work, and that they were facing their own supply issues, etc. etc. No one was asked to police anything, it was just a crazy sign of the times.

      3. Admin 22*

        I’m wondering if there were other behaviors that the manager wasn’t happy about with the coworker; and decided to jump on the outgoing mail and place blame on the OP as the individual pointing it out. A form of conflict-avoidance.

      4. Sarah M*

        Yeah, this read that way to me too. I once had a co-worker like that, who sat right next to me. The smallest “infraction” by someone would send her *straight* to HR/their manager. She never spoke with them first, as far as I can recall. Oh, and we were junior admins at the time, with no supervisory powers over anyone. She was a genuinely good person, but this tendency to mind everyone else’s business got on people’s nerves big time.

        1. Caro*

          I have worked with such people, and the thing is, I have always, always made it a point to watch very carefully for the slightest slip up on their part to pounce on, ideally to upper management. If you wait long enough, the opportunity always comes around. What I don’t do is ever address them, because that type of pettiness is who they are.

      5. Kimfinkle*

        Exactly. And the dynamics of the company seemed messed up. That the manager identified the person who reported the “crime” seems reeks of bad management. I get the feeling that the manager probably makes a big deal out of everything so that reporting the postage issue was going to result in some punitive action and why the co-worker is so upset. We have managers at my company like that so we try not to get them involved in the smaller issues since they blow up at everything.

    3. ThatGirl*

      It’s not clear, but my instinct is it’s one of those mail stations where you weigh your envelope/package and it spits out the postage. Even so, if it’s just 2-3 envelopes, I don’t really see what the big deal is. If you feel that strongly about it, you *talk to the person* and say “we’re not really supposed to use that for personal mail” and they go “okay, thanks, I won’t do it again” and end of story.

      Like, snitching on someone for a few bucks worth of postage just seems petty and mean-spirited to me, especially given the boss’s reaction.

      1. HonorBox*

        Oh now I’m thinking of doing a fan fiction where the disciplined coworker does a really in-depth stakeout to catch the LW when they “accidentally” put a company-purchased pen in their pocket/purse.

        1. Juicebox Hero*

          “I lurked behind the file cabinet, obscured by the greyish penumbra cast by the pallid glow of Appollonia’s 19′ Asus XQZ3 monitor as she sighingly jabbed the X icon at the top right corner of its pallid oblong face, thus closing out the Budgets database, her ultimate task of this day of gainful employment.

          “‘I’m out of here, Aloysius! See you tomorrow!’ she cheerfully vocalized as from the nethermost reaches of her lefthand desk drawer withdrew the cavernous Vera Bradley handbag, black with a jaunty hibiscus print, and began to stow within its abyssal depths her belongings: an iPhone 13 with cracked screen, leapord print case, and pink Popsocket; a seafoam-green Yeti tumbler whose stainless steel reusable straw jangled discordantly to the jinging of her keyring.

          “But what was this – seized along with the camel, scarlet, and ivory plaid scarf she’d divested her cervical region of upon arrival at 8:28 that morning – a Bic RoundStic Medium point, the reservoir visible through its translucent cerulean body still half full of ink! Snatched from its place, paid for by our employers! Stolen!

          “Finally, revenge would be mine…”

          1. Elitist Semicolon*

            APPLAUSE. May I add”

            “It would be a joyous moment when, having informed leadership of her transgression, I could look her in her warm chocolate orbs and laugh the laugh of the truly vindicated.”

            Because ya gotta get the chocolate orbs in there somehow.

            1. Juicebox Hero*

              Shoot, you’re right. The protagonist has steely amethyst orbs, of course, that bore into her chocolate orbs with the ferocity of a 1.5″ spade bit tearing into an unwitting plank of kiln-dried pine xylem.

              1. Abogado Avocado*

                Based on these magnificent (!!!) comments alone, Juicebox Hero and Elitist Semicolon, I truly believe Alison needs to host an Office Fiction Contest in the comments. With you two as the first two entrants. Please say yes!

          2. Texan In Exile*

            “ivory plaid scarf she’d divested her cervical region of upon arrival at 8:28 that morning”

            I always read “cervical” as “cervix” at first.

            Which is quite the image.

            1. Juicebox Hero*

              Thank you :)

              And that’s exactly why I used that word, in the tradition of some fanfic writers using… interesting word choices.

        2. Dasein9 (he/him)*

          I once got a talking-to for leaving with a pencil still behind my ear.
          Thenceforth, I bought my own pencils, in a different color.

          1. Windaria*

            Wow, that’s petty. I’ve walked out of the office with more pens and pencils twisted up in a makeshift hair bun than I care to think about. No one has ever cared.

            1. I Have RBF*

              The funny thing for me with that is that I would bring slightly better pens from home, and they’d disappear. Yes folks, people would “borrow” my personal pens, thinking they were company pens.

              Then of course there are the swag pens that I would bring in after a trade show, and leave in the office.

              So if a pen ended up behind my ear? Meh. I usually brought more in than went out.

          2. Hannah Lee*

            I once worked someplace where the VP of marketing got written up for being caught with something like 8 rolls of company bought toilet paper in her designer tote bag.

            It was the talk of the hourly employees network, that this woman, one of the top paid people in the company, who drove a Jaguar, was always dressed to the 9s in designer clothes, and who consistently looked down her nose at we little peons, I mean people, was caught red handed stealing the most inelegant of company supplies, in bulk.

            Though there that time later when I borrowed the company video camera for the weekend … to make videos of myself in various outfits in preparation for an upcoming vacation (I wanted to compare looks to figure out decide to pack in my small suitcase) and then dutifully brought the camera back on Monday. But then spent months convinced that neither I nor my friend who was helping me had remembered to delete the videos. It was nothing risque (I think I was going to Europe in October, so not even a bathing suit in the mix … it was all layers, and sweaters and travel clothes) but I was just mortified at the thought of co-workers watching me ‘walk the runway’ in my living room. I didn’t have the heart to just ask the person I’d borrowed it from, I would have died of embarrassment if he’d confirmed my worst fears.

            1. Project Maniac-ger*

              Wealthy Leaders Stealing Mundane Items is one of my favorite genres of work weirdness. Have they no shame?

            2. NotAnotherManager!*

              I worked in BigLaw for years, and some people would steal anything that wasn’t nailed down, including the corner office partners. I suggested once that they put cameras in places where larger-ticket items were being taken, and that was rejected because HR didn’t want to have to follow up with the specific people they knew were taking the items.

        3. AnonInCanada*

          I was thinking the same thing. Except it was a highlighter. Which is something I will sometimes forget I put in my pocket until I got home from the office.

          I can see the SWAT team busting down my door, fully-automatic machine guns pointed at my head, them screaming “DOWN ON THE GROUND NOW! LET ME SEE YOUR HANDS!” (reaches into pocket) “AHAH! THERE IT IS! CAUGHT RED-HANDED! YOU’RE COMING WITH US! HANDS BEHIND YOUR BACK! NOW!!”

          (Which you can get a 12-pack of them for $5 at Walmart.)

        4. Caro*

          See, now, I would do this. I would NOT tell the OP that I was upset by the large reaction rather than just telling me what I was doing was a problem. That type of person is always very self-righteous, and self-righteous people often have a flip side, and the trick is to catch them. I would absolutely make a hobby of very quietly watching out for any, even the smallest slip, and then I’d be all up in that.

      2. Phony Genius*

        Yes, unless this employee was sending out a bulk mailing of wedding invitations or Christmas cards, it’s probably not worth bringing up. (Although 2-3 envelopes per day will add up.)

        Now if the LW had information that the co-worker was running a side business and these envelopes were part of that business, that would be something else entirely and would have to be reported. (I assume if this were the case, they’d have said so in the letter. – I only added this because I know of someone who got caught doing it.)

        1. Czhorat*

          Unless there’s a side business, who sends 2-3 envelopes a day? I might send that many in a month at most.

          At some point you reach the counting paperclips level of oversight.

          1. ThatGirl*

            Yeah, except for Christmas cards, I send 1-2 bill payments a month through the mail and a handful of birthday cards throughout the year and that’s about it.

        2. Just Another Cog*

          I agree. I used to work with a lady who was always crying broke (I think more because she was just a bad money manager) and would often hide a stack of personal mail in a folder as she went into the mailroom. It was obvious she was using the company postage meter to post her mail. I know this because I’d occasionally get one of those files on my desk in error. She also would often go to a restroom, women’s OR men’s, with her huge purse. There would never be any toilet paper, tampons or napkins left under the sink after she was done. I am sure there were many other things she helped herself to in that office, but I never said anything. Place was all sorts of dysfunctional; the lady stealing grocery items and postage was low on the list of my concerns.

      3. JelloStapler*

        I can see where places with a tight budget would frown on this part. But I would still just tell the person that printer privileges don’t extend to postage privileges.

      4. Kay*

        Seriously this – everywhere I’ve ever worked a few envelopes every once in a while was perfectly fine. What are we talking – like $1.50 or something?? It would literally cost the company more to have the tattler and manager spending time to deal with this. It is so bizarre to me. Of course if someone is abusing it you just say something to them, but I could never in a million years imagine myself talking to a boss about someone using 3 stamps.

    4. Jennifer Strange*

      Yeah, that was my question. I’m guessing based on the response from the boss the co-worker was using the office’s stamps/postage machine, but even then I feel like this wouldn’t be worth the effort to go after unless it was happening regularly or they were sending something that cost a lot to send (like a large package).

      1. Sloanicota*

        I did wonder if it was a company postage meter or shipping account being used for packages, which could add up quickly – but I still would have mentioned it to the coworker myself first. Now I’m imaging they’re like, running an etsy shop or just being a prolific poshmark type who mails packages all the time. That would be the level where I might give the boss a heads up.

      2. D’Arcy*

        According to the comments in the original thread, the employee was indeed using company postage, for numerous large envelopes totaling about $30 in costs. Not a huge amount in the grand scheme of things, but pretty egregious when it comes to amount of mail.

    5. Plebeian Aristocracy*

      I came to ask this question. My assumption was that it was pre-postage stamped mail, as people in my place of business drop that off to be sent out all the time. I just feel like there are a lot of things missing from this letter that would give it proper context.

    6. RIP Pillowfort*

      Depends on your workplace. They are very vocal at my workplace that you are not to use mail drop off for personal mail. We actually had an email reminder recently about it. Our mail doesn’t have direct pick up and drop off by the postal service. It goes to the main office mail room for all stamping and sending it to the post office. If it’s pre-stamped it gets pulled out and returned.

      But would I waste the bandwidth reporting someone? No we have staff responsible for the mail sorting and they deal with this.

    7. Lacey*

      Yeah, I’ve never worked anywhere that would have minded as long as we paid our own postage. I never did that, but a couple of time I got mail sent to the office and that was also totally fine.

    8. kiki*

      Yes, I am super curious how big of an issue this could possibly be for just a few personal items. Maybe they work in government where things are stricter than I’m used to?

    9. Marketing Ninja Unicorn*

      This is my question as well, having just put two letters and a postcard (written on my own time, stamped with my own stamps) in the ‘outgoing mail’ bin at work. That’s frankly a perk of offices, IMHO–having an outgoing mail bin where you can post letters/bill payments/whatever that you’ve already stamped and have ready to go, rather than trying to find a stand-along postal box or going to the post office at lunch with everyone else who’s going to the post office at lunch.

    10. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I assumed they’re using the office’s postage, maybe a not insignificant amount if they’re mailing packages, but the letter doesn’t actually say.

      1. JelloStapler*

        I could not imagine the gumption of mailing personal packages on the company’s dime! That would lead to an eyebrow raise from me but a quick “dont’ do that” versus immediately tattling.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah — but I think a lot of people here are assuming the absolute best case scenario (the coworker put already-stamped personal mail in the outgoing basket, or just took postage for a few letters), but the letter doesn’t actually say and there’s a whole possible spectrum, from something piddly like that all the way to a coworker who’s selling stuff on eBay and having the office pay to mail out all their stuff. It still should just be a direct conversation with the coworker, but the tone of most replies here is assuming it’s the first scenario and not something closer to the second.

          Something I always wish the commenters here would keep in mind is that when you’re tempted to be really harsh on someone, it’s usually better to account for that whole spectrum, rather than assuming you know exactly where on the spectrum it was.

          1. Czhorat*

            That’s fair, and I was assuming perhaps not the best case (already stamped envelopes in the outgoing queue) but a bit past that (the water bill and a birthday card for their nephew going through the postal meter). The word “mail” didn’t make me think of boxes, which is possibly my blind spot.

            I’d think that even if it were a few packages I’d assume it to be in the range of tens of dollars. That, to me, doesn’t justify this level of reaction from anyone involved unless there’s more than we’ve seen (ie, the offending employee had a strike against them for something else)

          2. Lucy*

            I take your point about kindness and the benefit of the doubt and I will definitely try to incorporate that in my future replies.

            As a semi-justification of my own immediate recoil – it’s really hard not to feel like someone who would report something like this to their manager *would* lay it on pretty thick if they were talking about parcels or an eBay business being run out of the office. I think anyone who had an awareness of how “telling the boss” can be perceived, would want to explain why this was necessary. If it were me, I would have written paragraphs for you to edit out, like, “obviously I would *never* make a huge deal out of just a couple of letters, but it was parcel after parcel and I saw them do it so many times!”

            Obviously, not everyone is me. Not everyone would do this. The picture conjured up, though, when someone doesn’t add those details, is of someone who doesn’t think the details matter, or that they would change anything. Maybe a, “stealing is stealing, whether it’s a penny or a millions pounds” kind of person. And while I should and will try to be more sympathetic to possible reasons a person may have this perspective, it’s hard not to react to that, given we’ve all encountered a Dwight Schrute in our work life, right? And they make things so hard and miserable!

            But… Yeah, I take your point. Trying to dredge up my exhausted dregs of empathy now.

          3. different seudonym*

            Heh. I have heard tell of a public employee who was caught using public resources to mail out things they sold on eBay…said items being new computer equipment bought for state use.

            They got caught because they left the state inventory barcode sticker on each piece, and the buyers turned them in.

          4. Smithy*

            This is a helpful reminder around how giving the writer the benefit of the doubt as well as the other employees can still leave a grey area.

            Because while I cannot imagine telling a supervisor about coworkers mailing a handful of letters a month and perhaps one package a quarter – I also personally cannot imagine having a direct conversation with a coworker bringing in a tote bag of personal packages to mail every day. While both options feel deeply awkward to me, the first option I’d be inclined to just do nothing. But in the second case, I’d also be concerned about being caught/reprimanded for knowing but not saying anything.

          5. Your Mate in Oz*

            I was wondering about the coworker relationship the other way as well,

            People keep speculating about LW’s personality, but I wonder if the letter posting one was a little prickly or resistant to being told about expectations by coworkers. It only takes a couple of “you’re not the boss of me” before people start leaving them to find out the hard way. But LW isn’t necessarily going to spend a paragraph discussing that.

        2. Heffalump*

          I’ve occasionally sent outgoing UPS and FedEx packages from work, but I’ve been totally aboveboard with it and reimbursed the company.

      2. Shoes*

        Does no one have a suggestion for repairing the relationship (such as it is) with the reprimanded co-worker?

        An apology?

        1. Michael*

          No, because there’s nothing they can do that’s going to help the disciplined employee look like less of a troublemaker to their employer now that the worms are out of the can. Employees who have had discipline or “improvement plan” action in the past almost never outgrow that reputation no matter how well they do in the company from then on. It may not be supposed to be like that, but typically, it is.

          If I were the one who had sent the mail I’d be ticked off too and I would never, ever trust this person again. I would do my best to avoid them and not give them a chance to make any more trouble for me.

    11. Honoria Lucasta*

      Where I work, we’re strictly instructed that we may not use the postage meter for personal mail. However, the receptionist keeps a roll of stamps on hand for business purposes — i.e. putting on thank you cards — and employees are allowed to purchase the occasional stamp as needed. Whenever we have outgoing mail, an employee has to leave early to drop it at the post office, and we have a clear policy that there will not be a post-office run unless there is business mail in the outbox; if there is only personal mail in the outbox, it might sit there for a day or two until we have business mail to go with it. Everybody seems fine with that understanding!

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yeah, we can’t have the organization pay for our mail, but we have ways to send it through the system without incurring costs. I can and do put my own stamped mail in with the organization’s – my mailman is awful, and I don’t send anything important through my home postal box because of the things that have been lost in the past.

        We also have the option to use the company meter, and they just deduct the cost from our paycheck – every employee has a charge code that works for mail/packages/copying/large scale printing/formerly for long distance service, so you just write your charge code on the mail slip, and they run it through the meter for you. They will only do large personal runs in extenuating circumstances with pre-approval – meaning you’re not sending your 100+ wedding invites through the mailroom.

        If you put a customer or project charge code on your personal mail, you will be warned/disciplined for that.

        1. Banana Pyjamas*

          Yes just last month I finally received a cancellation notice for my car insurance that I should have received in November.

        2. Kaiya*

          I’ve worked at several firms where each employee had their own code for personal charges like this. One place even encouraged us to use the company UPS/FedEx account for our personal shipments, because their corporate rate was a lot cheaper.

          I did see someone send her postcard wedding invitations thru the office mailroom. She totally charged the postage to herself personally. But I did wonder if the metered postage raised any guest eyebrows.

          On the flipside, an employer got some unflattering publicity when an executive who sat on a local government–related commission, sent a commission mass mailing thru our mailroom. Not good optics, even if she did charge the postage back to herself personally. (It wouldn’t surprise me if she didn’t.)

    12. STG*

      We don’t allow anything personal to be either sent out from or delivered here. However, I work in government and spending government resources (including employee time) for personal stuff is a no no.

      In addition, we don’t want to be involved if your letter/package doesn’t make it for some reason.

      1. Love me, love my cat*

        I worked for a very large company- 3,000 or so employees, and we had a lot of outgoing mail. We weren’t allowed to send out personal stuff, or get it delivered to us there, either. Just too much volume for the mail dept. to handle.

    13. AnonInCanada*

      Agreed. If the employee already paid for and affixed their own stamp on this mail and just put it in their outgoing mailbox, what’s the big deal? Even if they used the mail meter to mail a letter or bill, is the company that obtuse as to make this a disciplinary action? What’s the company out, $1? Oh boy, that’s embezzlement to the extreme there! /s

      Now, if the employee were mailing out their 200+ wedding invitations on the company’s dime, or if this were happening on a regular basis that would be another story. But this doesn’t seem to be the case.

    14. Mmm.*

      This is what I wondered as well. Sometimes you don’t have time to do everything at home, so you might do some tasks on your breaks–like answer mail–and put your own stamps on! The postal worker isn’t suddenly going to be unable to work because of a few extra pieces of mail.

      This is also a case of MYOB. Unless they were mailing packages or thousands of pieces of mail, this doesn’t affect you. Save your “problem solving” for big issues.

    15. Mad, mad Me*

      Exactly! If the letters were stamped, what’s the big deal? And no wonder the guy thought she was out to get coworkers; the way she rushed to squeal on him for a minor infraction certainly seems like it. Geez! I’m glad I don’t work with her.

    16. EventPlannerGal*

      Man, I am certain in my BONES that this is one of those letters where everyone argues for 400 comments and then the LW pops up in six hours like “oh yeah I forgot to mention a few details which are that when I said ‘a few personal mail items’ I actually meant ‘his profitable side hustle selling mail-order dumbbells with all postage charged to the company account’.” You can’t fool me again, ask a manager dot com!

    17. OP*

      The mail was not already stamped and paid for. They sent 8 Manila type envelopes and it cost around $30 .

      1. jojo*

        that was big enough to report. he deserved it. a single regular envelope is not. have you mentioned to others that it was thirty dollars of postage? because that is straight up theft. and it would change others opinion also.

      2. fidget spinner*

        ohhhhhh that’s so different than what I was thinking. I think you’re totally justified in reporting him. It should be common sense that you can’t have your employer pay $30 for your personal mail!

    18. Jen*

      Wait, some things aren’t clear and I also disagree with a key point in the reply.

      1) was the mail stamped/paid for by your co-worker? If so, then everything else in this email is crazy. So I’m guessing your coworker was using the company to pay for their postage.

      2) under no circumstances should the boss have told your coworker who gave him the tip. You’re experiencing retribution which is illegal in the US. The boss should be written up for this one. I know I would be.

      3) I don’t agree with those saying you should have confronted the coworker first. That’s not your job. You took the concerning behavior to the boss and let him/her deal with it as they saw fit. Their consequences might seem intense but at the same time they saw fit to share who tipped them off. I don’t trust them so much.

    19. fidget spinner*

      yeah I’ve done this before… I had no idea I was committing a faux pas… if I was?

      I live in a condo that has a mail slot, not a mailbox, so I can’t send outgoing mail without going to the post office, so I’ve put my stuff in outgoing mail… stamped already and all that.

      Is it really a big deal?

      1. fidget spinner*

        oooookay, I see where OP clarified. He hadn’t yet paid for the postage and it was large envelopes that cost a total of around $30. That’s so different from what I was thinking.

  2. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    Good rule of thumb: If something your coworker is doing doesn’t affect you or your work, it’s not your business. Yes, even if it offends your abstract sense of justice. You can’t feel justified about reporting someone for a minor infraction AND be worried about them being mad at you for it.

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      This is an excellent guideline. If they’re making work hard for you or creating an unpleasant environment in the workplace, first thing (in most cases) is to talk to them. If you don’t feel like that will be helpful, talk to their boss (or yours). If what they’re doing isn’t actually hurting anyone, you can roll your eyes and be annoyed, but leave it alone.

    2. Bast*

      Absolutely! And if you yourself aren’t a manager, it’s always possible that the person you’re about to tell on for something minor received permission from the manager but didn’t think to tell you, because it’s none of your business. We’ve seen that in several other letters here when someone wants to go directly to the boss to report an equal for something when boss, in fact, is already aware and has approved it.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          Obviously, not the person you were replying to, but: If someone were stealing on a much larger scale than a few stamps, I might dime them out. Or, say, taking part in a phone meeting while driving. As someone said below, safety issues. HIPAA/FERPA violations.

          Lots of things that might not affect my day-to-day job, but are a big enough deal to warrant intervention.

      1. Lady Blerd*

        There are many possible scenarios where this statement might be problematic but for minor things like this, it’s a good rule to follow.

      2. Hannah Lee*

        The only cases I can think of are in either health care, law enforcement, etc where someone’s misbehavior could cause actual harm or if someone is breaking the law in a serious way (ie, not that they overstayed a 15 minutes only parking spot by 5 minutes) but if they were taking bribes for building permit approval or something similar. Or if whatever they are doing is having direct impact on your ability to do your job.

        Using non-materially priced company supplies for personal stuff doesn’t really rise to that level IMO.

      3. AnonForThis*

        I guess it depends on the boundaries of “you and your work”. I’ve worked in safety-critical jobs, so it would be a huge deal to me if my coworkers were skipping their safety checks even if it wasn’t specifically my job to enforce that. (I’d start with talking to the coworker, but if I didn’t see improvement I’d go to management.) In a more serious situation–if I thought a coworker was impaired and trying to operate machinery, for example–I’d go straight to management.

        Though I suppose according to the “Safety is everyone’s job” motto, that would have been within my job parameters.

        1. HA2*

          Yeah, safety-critical things absolutely seem like an area where “you do you, not going to sweat minor details” should not fly.

          I do think that this is highlighting that this sort of thing is a judgement call, and the discussion is about WHERE to draw the line rather than whether a line exists. “Coworker driving the forklift drunk” is one extreme, but “coworker dropped two christmas cards (which they had put their own stamp on) in the company mailbox” is the other.

          And some of this discussion involves some of us commenters talking past each other because we’re at the same time discussing where the line should be drawn AND trying to interpret the OP’s situation – “coworker wrote one christmas card at work” is different than “coworker mails 5 envelopes and 2 packages every day, and is personally responsible for 90% of this small company’s outgoing mail” and we don’t have specifics on just how much mail OP’s coworker was sending.

        2. Lucy*

          Yeah, I think OP’s actions were (on the face of things, and without further context) awful. On the other hand, when I worked in school safeguarding, I once went to the head of safeguarding and quietly told her I was concerned about a colleague’s approach to child protection disclosures, (discourage them, minimise them, send child back to class, and then spend the next twenty minutes explaining to any witnesses why it wasn’t *actually* a true safeguarding if you really understood that…) I actually had tried to approach the colleague in the past when I had seen this, and sort of gently say, “you know, I know you find [child] attention-seeking but it sounded to me as though she was telling you that… I think you need to call social services about it. Do you want me to stay here while you do it, since I heard what she said too?”. No dice.

          Anywho, it went terribly. Due to my efforts to speak to the colleague first (a couple of times about potentially less serious issues and then this once about a big one) I’d got his back up badly, and so we were known to have a contentious relationship already. My expressions of concern were therefore perceived as sniping and I was ignored. But, I’d report my concerns again and again because whistleblowing isn’t tattling.

          I think there’s a perspective problem here though. All potential harm is so low level, that it seems basically not to exist to me. It’s not whistleblowing, it’s just petty. I guess there are a lot of reasons it may not feel that way to someone though.

    3. JelloStapler*

      You are free to make your choice (running to the boss) but not free from it’s consequences (colleague annoyed)

    4. You're a Petty McBetty*

      Agreed. This letter feels just petty. I suspect that this person is just telling the truth to the other colleagues in that the LW made such a to-do about a very small infraction they could have just brought up directly instead of gleefully skipping off to tattle-tale to the boss.

      1. Pizza Rat*

        Petty was the word that came to mind for me too, especially when it isn’t someone on the LW’s team. For me the best response would be to mention it privately, if at all.

      2. Mice is different than good*

        Exactly. If their first reaction to seeing personal mail on someone’s desk is to tattle on them AND they are surprised enough by the blowback to write in to an advice column… I’m not sure this is a first instance of OP making a big deal over minor issues.
        Or maybe it is and CW’s response is a little over the top.

        1. Mice is different than good*

          (The calculus would be different if CW was using a bunch of company-paid postage or filling up the outgoing mail box or something similar)

      1. Goldenrod*

        Yeah. It really shouldn’t be a big deal, IMO, even if the person wasn’t paying for their own postage. It’s….a few pieces of mail. I would be mad if a co-worker reported me for something this petty.

        1. Uranus Wars*

          I think I’d be annoyed as co-worker but don’t think I’d go around bad mouthing the person. But also if I was the manager I wouldn’t have said anything to the person doing the mailing – especially not who reported them – unless there was a much bigger issue going on with that person. I would have told OP not to worry about those types of things and let it go.

          My advice to OP (which no one seems to care about giving) is to apologize and say you didn’t mean for it to go nuclear and that at the time you had a lapse in judgement about policy. Or whatever feels like the right explanation, as long as it’s honest.

          1. jojo*

            it was thirty dollars in non postage paid manila envelopes. expecting your employer to pay thirty dollars in postage on your personal mail is a petty thing. it is theft you can be fired for. the OP owes no one an apology.

    5. Not on board*

      Totally agree. I’ve seen people do stuff I thought was questionable but not my business. Sure, I was maybe a little annoyed but I’m not about to be petty towards someone else. If it was really egregious, such as mailing out packages on the company’s dime, I would speak to the coworker directly before going to the boss.
      Also, boss, wtf? You don’t out the person who snitched – you’re just making sure nobody feels okay reporting things to you – but maybe the boss wanted the OP to think twice about hassling them with low level nonsense. I once overheard one employee snitching about another employee to the boss, and the boss already knew and was trying to figure out how to deal with it, and was super irritated that the snitcher wasn’t just focused on doing his job.

    6. The Rules are Made Up*

      This is my general rule of thumb. I’m not getting paid for any managerial or supervisory duties and my name isn’t on the building so outside of what effects my actual job I don’t care what my coworkers are doing. I think more people would benefit from establishing some distance between themselves and their employer.

      (Sparing the comment section my rant about how so many employers are already committing wage theft, and how most people are underpaid) they will surely be okay and if a few pieces of mail is going to bankrupt the business then they have bigger problems.

      1. Ladida*

        Totally agree. If I were the OP’s manager I would tell them that looking over their coworkers desk to see what they are mailing and then going to their boss with this information is not part of their job, it does not promote team spirit and they should not be doing it.

    7. Ally McBeal*

      At my first job out of college, a coworker – who I thought I was friendly with – ran and tattled to her boss when I posted “I’m having a frustrating day” on Facebook (it was 2008, what more can I say?) and another coworker invited me to come vent about it when I had a break. My workload didn’t impact hers at all, we worked in totally different divisions. My boss pulled me aside, filled me in and simply told me to unfriend her and don’t trust her with anything going forward. Apparently her boss had a very similar attitude – we worked in an education-adjacent field so run-ins with with mean/catty/petty ex-teachers were common enough – and my boss was really over it.

      It shocks me that some people care enough about Not Their Business to decide that they’re going to MAKE it Their Business. I thought I’d left that high school BS in the dust, but it was a valuable lesson to learn about “the real world.”

    8. Michael*

      Exactly. This was NOT worth getting management involved over. Did the OP even care what would happen to their coworker’s career or ability to provide for their family if this went further than anticipated? Was it truly worth it?

      People should just keep their own nose clean and let other people make their own way or dig their own graves. Help if asked, mind their own business otherwise.

      Say it with me. “If you can’t say something nice… … …”

  3. ScruffyInternHerder*


    So did I read this correctly? The LW spent bandwidth on verifying that an employee on the other team, who they have little interaction with and don’t have managerial lines with, was using the mail service to send personal items, and then reported it to the boss? And the boss went to formal discipline and made sure that the offender knew who reported it?

    My dudes. This is a beehive.

    1. londonedit*

      Exactly my thoughts. On the one hand, I can completely understand why the OP’s colleague was angry at the OP for reporting them. Personally I think that’s a completely OTT reaction to something that could either be solved by a) having a quiet word with the person and saying ‘Not sure if you realise, but it’s against company policy to send out personal mail from the office’, or b) ignoring it, assuming they’re not sending out multiple packages every day or something. A few letters here and there? Sticking a birthday card in the office post bag because you forgot to go to the post office? I really don’t see the problem with that. So I definitely think the OP comes across as being petty here, especially as they reported straight to the boss without even speaking to their colleague first. But the boss going straight to formal disciplinary action? That also seems completely disproportionate. So we’ve got colleagues going behind people’s backs to report other colleagues for very minor breaches of company policy, and we’ve got bosses flying off the handle. Between the two of them, it sounds like a nightmare of a workplace!

      1. Miss Muffett*

        Yeah, the boss seems excessive here too unless it really was an issue with this person sending packages or large amounts of mail. Especially if it was a ‘first offense’ – usually you just need to say, hey – you can’t do that anymore and it would stop and the formal discipline comes later. But maybe they did already have that convo and the LW didn’t know and just happened to report it and the boss was like, ok now we gotta take the next step.
        I do hope it wasn’t something where the boss was just like, even tho this is minor, my hands are tied, i’m not allowed to (or don’t) use any judgement of my own to decide the scale of the offense.

      2. jojo*

        the boss went to formal disciple action because it was 8 manilla envelopes that cost thirty dollars to mail. justified.

    2. i drink too much coffee*

      Right, this feels like it could be a question on reddit’s AITA, and my vote would be ESH (Everyone Sucks Here).

      Generally speaking if I see a coworker doing something little that **might** be against company policy, I assume good intentions. Maybe they had special permission that time. Maybe they honestly don’t know you’re not supposed to do that. Maybe it’s technically against policy but everyone does it but the LW (I worked in a place for awhile where people did this all the time).

      1. Observer*

        this feels like it could be a question on reddit’s AITA, and my vote would be ESH (Everyone Sucks Here).

        I think this really encapsulates the situation here.

        My first thought was that it’s not really actionable for the OP. But on second thought, I think it is.

        OP, I think it’s important to realize that something is off base in your workplace. Alison often talks about how a toxic workplace can warp your norms, and this seems to be going on here.

        1. Shirley Keeldar*

          Indeed. OP, maybe give some thought to looking for another job? Honestly, there are workplaces out there where people are just not this angry. Sure, small frustrations exist everywhere, but this just seems like a lot of simmering rage (on the part of you, you coworker, the boss) to live with on a daily bases.

        2. sparkle emoji*

          This feels reminiscent of the letter where the LW was concerned that her coworkers were stealing from the company by taking home a can of company-provided soda and in the update reflected on how her sense of norms was warped by other bees just offstage from the original letter’s scope.

          1. Jen in Oregon*

            I feel it’s a little more like seeing someone sneak a few bucks out of the till/petty cash to buy something from a vending machine or lunch. I’m amazed that so many commenters seem to think stealing a few stamps here and there is no big deal, but I agree that I would have handled it differently than the poster (and yes, i have been in the very uncomfortable position of discovering a coworker stealing cash (“I was going to put it back, i swear!”) from our employer. It sucks.

            1. Despachito*

              I think we all agree that stealing cash would be a no-no, but where really is the line?

              Is the employee supposed NEVER EVER use ANYTHING belonging to their employer for their personal purpose? For example, if my husband calls me while I am at work and tells me something I need to write down, and I grab my employer’s pen and piece of paper and jot it down, am I stealing my employer’s office supplies, and should you as my coworker report me for that?

      2. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

        ESH seems reasonable here, but there’s so much we don’t know:

        * Is there a strong if-you-see-something-say-something mandate from management, with punishment if you don’t say something?
        * Is there bad blood between OP and the co-worker?
        * Has someone reported on OP for something of similar low import?
        * Does OP have a low tolerance for rulebreaking, combined with low empathy for coworkers?


        1. Banana Pyjamas*

          I agree. Without any additional context everyone here seems to be overreacting. There are conditions where this could be reasonable, but LW didn’t indicate any of those conditions exist.

      3. Olive*

        One of the ways I think about ESH is how I’d feel if the people in the story were my coworkers or friends or family members.

        ESH = whew I’m glad I’m not working with any of these people.

    3. DrSalty*

      Yeah this is wild. Why does anyone care about this? Was the employee sending out 100+ wedding invites or something?

    4. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I was really confused by this too. Let’s say a “few” pieces of mail means three. Postage for standard-sized, rectangular envelope stamps start at $0.68 according to the USPS website, and I assume if the colleague is using a mail machine that there’s a discounted rate being applied. We’re talking max $2 for this incident.

      Weigh that $2 vs the dollar value of the time spent by the LW telling the boss, the boss listening to it, the boss setting up a second meeting with the colleague, and now the colleague spending time getting mad at the LW. I assume all this time adds up to much more than $2, so if we’re worried about workplace theft, surely not making a big to do of something like this is a great place to start.

      This isn’t an attempt to justify the colleague using the mail machine when they’re apparently not allowed, just that responses should be proportional and not outweigh the “crime” being perpetrated.

      1. Dulcinea47*

        I don’t think you can pretend it was $2 and that’s it forever, b/c someone mailing stuff from work is likely to do it every time. How much is too much? $2 once a week? Once a month? (Every day is unlikely.) It’s not about the amount so much as about why LW even cares since they’re not in charge of the outgoing mail.

        1. Caramel & Cheddar*

          I don’t think you can assume they’re doing it every time, either, though. I can think of lots of scenarios where you might do this as a one-off when you normally wouldn’t. All we have to go on is one documented incident by the LW; everything else is speculation.

        2. Yorick*

          I don’t think someone mailing stuff from work is necessarily likely to do it every time. For example, I lived at an apartment building where there was an outgoing mail slot but the mailman almost never picked up from there. So I’d take my outgoing mail to the post office, but occasionally if something was urgent and I didn’t have time to go to the post office (it had limited hours), I would put it in the outgoing mail at work.

      2. Irish Teacher.*

        To be fair, we don’t know they are standard sized envelopes. If they are large parcels, it could be significantly more. (I have no idea what sending large parcels abroad would cost in the US; it sounds like ye might be a lot cheaper than here, where the cost of sending a standard sized letter within Ireland is €1.40).

        It was still handled badly all ’round though.

  4. Chairman of the Bored*

    Unless something like this is a serious safety/legal/business risk or actually causing a problem for you the correct course of action is to ignore it.

    Somebody sending personal mail out through the office? Not my problem, no need to tell anybody about anything or ever give it a second thought again.

    If a colleague went directly to my boss with some minor stuff like this it would absolutely change my future working relationship with them.

    1. Dan*

      If the company was so concerned about their mail system being misused they would be auditing who uses it. This post is so weird to me.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        Modern machines can definitely track this too, right? It’s been awhile since I used one, but I always had to input a code specific to my department to use it, which meant that it showed up as a line item on our monthly budget statements and someone would be able to tell if the numbers were high enough vis-a-vis actual department mailing needs that it looked suspicious. I’m guessing a “few” envelopes doesn’t at all get into the “there are so many of them, people are questioning these totals” territory.

      2. Steph*

        I agree with your sentiment, @dan. I worked at an office that had an easy way of coding outgoing mail expenses so that people could use the machine for personal mail and have the postage cost taken out of their pay. That was there was no gray area with postage machine use.

        That being said, I couldn’t imagine reporting a colleague for abusing the postage machine.

    2. Alan*

      Yep. This is just tattling. And I have a hunch that this isn’t the first context this has happened in, which partially explains the snapping.

  5. Former Hominid*

    I mean, frankly unless some information about what or how he was mailing something was left out, reporting him for doing this seems so wildly inappropriate… If I was a coworker I’d be glad he was calling you out unprofessionally because it would alert me to never trust you again.

    1. I Fought the Law*

      I agree with this completely. I would not trust the OP and would be glad to know what kind of co-worker they are.

    2. Overit*

      ITA! I would be very grateful to know that coworker was a snitch and that the boss goes nuclear on such a minor offense.
      I would never trust that coworker again.

    3. sparkle emoji*

      Yeah, I could be misinterpreting some things(what type of mail, how often was this happening, etc) but in my reading, the LW looks worse than the coworker IMO.

      1. sparkle emoji*

        At least in how it would impact their relationship with coworkers, I should say. The hostility from the coworker is obviously inappropriate.

  6. Hiring Mgr*

    I don’t think he should be treating you poorly or continuing to harp on it, but tbh it sounds really petty that you would tell the boss about this. Why did you feel you had to report him?

    I completely understand why he’s upset with you.

    1. ferrina*

      I understand being upset, but not the actively hostile part. Coworker takes this beyond reasonable reaction into Not Okay territory. Freezing LW out of social interactions? Sure, I totally get that. But being accusatory and it sounds like going out of their way to be nasty? That’s a lot.

      Honestly, everyone in this story chose The Way of Drama.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        I will say that depending on what “formal discipline” entailed, I might even understand the actively hostile part.

        Affect my wages/benefits negatively over petty things that don’t affect you? I might not be adult enough to not be actively hostile.

        And given that the LW was petty enough to report it, I’m questioning “actively hostile”.

      2. Blue*

        I guess…I also don’t experience the OP as a tremendously reliable narrator. I wonder how OTT the disciplined colleague is really being. Like, did they make a joke to one colleague like “watch out for OP, they’re a ruleminder” or are they putting up fliers of OP’s face labeled SNITCH all over the break room? There’s a huge range of possibility even in how the OP described their colleague’s response.

          1. ScruffyInternHerder*

            I just went straight to the HP movies and the daily newspaper with the moving pictures, to be honest

          2. Me... Just Me (as always)*

            The whole idea that if something doesn’t very directly affect a person that they should turn a blind eye… surely, you can see the problem with this?… or, maybe not. I definitely can & thank God that our world is populated by folks that don’t turn blind eyes to those things that don’t directly affect them.

            OP works at a company with a total of 7 employees. Small. Probably local. Maybe not doing well in this economy. We don’t know. Very plausible given the supervisor’s handling of the situation. You’ve got one of the employees effectively stealing from the company. Probably not a whole lot of money, though. But, we don’t know. What we do know is that petty theft is still theft. Would I have told the supervisor?- No. I probably would have said something to the co-worker, though… however, it appears that the coworker is not just a thief but doesn’t see a problem with stealing (as evidenced by the fact that they’re holding a grudge against the OP). idk. I don’t have a thief’s mentality- if I got caught stealing I’d feel embarrassed and ashamed rather than angry.

        1. ferrina*

          This is a good point. OP doesn’t really say what the employee is doing. If they are telling the other people in the office that OP was the one that said they had mail, well, that’s just sharing information. If they aren’t having social conversations with OP, that’s natural consequences.

          I was definitely picturing the employee going out of their way to have loudly whispered conversations or saying “oh no, here comes the snitch” when OP walks into a room. I guess the rest of the letter was so much like an elementary school that I pictured this playing out like a playground too, even though LW doesn’t actually describe it that way.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          Yeah I am also finding the lack of detail here sort of maddening: 1) How much postal theft are we talking? copper money or paper? 2) Why did OP feel compelled to do anything? 3) Why didn’t the boss simply tell the colleague to knock it off instead of formally warning them? 4) If the boss is so grateful for the tip off, why was OP thrown under the bus for doing so? Because no one else will now!… and 4) Is it really being OTT hostile to be a bit upset, and to assume someone’s out to get you after this sort of rules lawyering? … Or are we talking about a clueless colleague who’s ripped off the company for a big sideline or occasion, who’s now harassing OP at every turn? Mind you, if there was a Wanted: Snitch poster campaign going on, from someone who was running their Etsy business through the office post room, those ARE pretty identifying details and maybe OP is better off being discreet.

  7. SometimesMaybe*

    Honestly, If the situation is as straight forward as the letter suggests, with no other politics at play, I think I would not trust the OP much going forward either. I am all for integrity, but this seems a lot like simple tattling. Was this a massive amount of mailing, or a particularly large item? Is the OP responsible for the postage budget? In over twenty years of working in offices I have never known a company to care if employees occasionally mail personal items from the office.

    1. Clisby*

      I haven’t either, although I’ll bet they wouldn’t have wanted employees sending mail on the company’s dime. I can’t remember any specific *policy* against this, but it seems like common sense that I have to pay the postage for my own personal mail. It would never occur to me to use the company postage meter, etc.

      We were specifically told we could use the office printers/copiers for occasional personal use, but I don’t need a policy to tell me I can’t print out my novel, complete with illustrations, on the color printer in the office.

      1. Clisby*

        That said, it also wouldn’t occur to me to report this to a supervisor without first telling the co-worker, “It’s actually against policy to have the company pay your postage.” (Unless, of course, the policy really is that employees can’t just drop their stamped mail in the office outgoing box, in which case the company is bonkers.)

        1. Banana Pyjamas*

          I think this is where I fall. LW verified it was a pattern before reporting it, which is good, but they should have given coworker an opportunity to stop pattern before reporting.

    2. Some Words*

      I have worked in offices where there’s absolutely no use of company postage, and am now in an office with a “and you can’t mail even postage stamped personal mail from this office”. All that to say I’m used to rigid mail rules.

      What would I have done in LW’s place? Have a discreet chat with the person and remind them of the policy, and then only if it was excessive. And then drop it, because it’s not part of my job to monitor the mail OR that employee.

      The end. Don’t mess with people’s livelihood over petty things like this.

    3. kiki*

      Right. Apparently it seems like this is a big deal in this office for whatever reason, but my first instinct would be to talk to the rogue mailer directly and say, “Hey, I know this isn’t a big deal most other places, but our office is really strict about not mailing personal items from the office.”

    4. Velawciraptor*

      Yeah, that’s where I come down too. I wouldn’t make a big fussy deal about it as the co-worker is, but I’d definitely not trust the person and might quietly warn others to be cautious around OP as well.

    5. Alan*

      Yep, I myself follow rules compulsively, but c’mon LW, consider the money you “take” from the company in labor, monitoring your coworkers and reporting them to the line.

  8. Edward Williams*

    The employee who reported the coworker for sending mail is a tattletale. Both my mother and my kindergarten teacher told me “Don’t be a tattletale!” Going to the boss withOUT warning the employee is all the worse: backstabbing.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      I admit, I hate seeing the term “tattletale” thrown about when talking about work because so often it gets used when someone it reporting something important, but in this case I agree.

      1. ferrina*

        Right? I am avid against the Tattletale label and am generally in favor of “if you can’t tell it, don’t do it”, but LW just had no stake in what they were reporting.

        I guess I’m just confused why this took up any brainspace for LW. I’d see the mail and just….not think about it? Why did it get stuck in LW’s brain to the point they thought it was something worth reporting on?

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          I’m interested to know how the LW confirmed it was personal mail and not work mail. Did they ask? Did they wait for the co-worker to step away and then snoop on their desk?

          1. ferrina*

            I could see this being readily apparent. If you know that this department doesn’t send mail and you recognize the shape of a pre-provided bill envelope or a colorful Papyrus envelope, it’s an easy deduction. Especially if there’s a few of them. I could see myself walking by a desk and absently noticing “oh, it looks like Coworker is planning on posting their personal mail from work.”

            But I couldn’t be bothered to care about that observation.

            1. Myrin*

              Funnily enough, the OP’s use of “apparent” (as well as “mail items” instead of “letters”) actually made me think that we’re talking about packages because unless this office never ever receives any physical mail (which seems unlikely given how they have an actual mailing service; IME, places that send letters also receive letters), I don’t know how you’d be able to discern – from a distance, it sounds like – that something is clearly a personal letter.

          2. Dahlia*

            I’m a very petty person myself, so I actually want to know how the LW knows their coworker was going to mail it at the office. You could absolutely have mail sitting on your desk because you forgot to mail it on the way to the office and you’re going to drop it at the post office on your way home, and you don’t want to forget.

            Like, technically this coworker was punished for something they did not do.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          See, I think there is a very interesting answer to that question. I’m not going to speculate on what OPs answer is; but they must have an answer.

      2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Yeah. I’ve said it here — reporting things at work is not tattling. But this so much is. It’s such a minor deal. Okay, its not right, you shouldn’t be using the company postage meter for personal business. But it does not merit going to the boss over UNLESS its part of a pattern of behavior. Or the person is openly bragging about stealing from the company.

        Plus the Boss’ reaction is out of line too. At most this merits a please don’t do this again. Unless again, its part of a pattern of behavior or he’s been told not to do it before.

        I mean was this worth poisoning the relationship with your coworkers over? You still have to work with these folks. Was the coworkers reaction unprofessional – yes. But I would not trust this person either. All conversations would be work related, only. Civil but not friendly. And definitely nothing personal since that apparently gets you reported.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I am trying to give the LW grace and I have to wonder, given the reaction, if this is the kind of thing they could get in trouble for if they knew but didn’t say anything. Of course proving they knew would be as far as I can think impossible, but if there’s a fear-driven culture I can almost understand.

      3. JelloStapler*

        I heard something really great a few years ago that I told my kids- “Are you telling me so I can help solve a problem/because someone is not safe, or are you telling me to get them in trouble?”

        1. Not on board*

          This. So much. My mother used to say to us, you can kill each other, I just don’t want to hear about it. Of course, that was hyperbole, but people have a lot going on, especially bosses, and having to hear this kind of tattling takes up your time and energy. It is possible that the boss outed the OP in order to discourage tattling so they don’t have to hear about petty stuff. Of course, they handled it poorly, along with the OP, and the Mailer.

          1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

            My mom used to tell us, “I don’t care who started it, I’m going to end it,” when my sister and I tattled.

    2. londonedit*

      I generally really dislike the idea of ‘telling tales’ in the workplace, because we’re all meant to be adults, but in this situation I actually think it’s a rare instance where ‘telling tales’ is exactly what it was. What business was it of the OP’s, really, if their colleague was sending out a few personal items with the office post? To me that’s on the same level as nicking a pen here and there. Maybe if the colleague was new I might mention to them that it’s against company policy (assuming it is), but after that? It’s up to them. If they know the rules and they want to carry on doing it, and it’s not harming me or anyone else or affecting the way I do my job, then I’d leave them to it. I wouldn’t go running straight to the boss to report them for something so minor.

    3. triss merigold*

      I have more beef with the boss, tbh. Disciplining the employee AND telling them exactly who to be mad at is poor management at a minimum.

      1. RVA Cat*

        This. The boss is overreacting and pitting them against each other. Neither of them can trust the boss.

      2. Observer*

        I have more beef with the boss, tbh. Disciplining the employee AND telling them exactly who to be mad at is poor management at a minimum.

        Yeah, the boss here is not good.

        That’s why I liked the person who said it’s an ESH situation. (ie No one here comes out looking good.)

      3. kiki*

        Yeah, I honestly am most mad at the boss here. I think a good boss would have taken what LW said and let their employee know that this is actually against policy but not punished them for it unless they repeated the behavior.
        LW tattled a bit, sure, but I think they genuinely might have told boss as a way to make sure their coworker was informed about the policy by their boss.

        1. Uranus Wars*

          I didn’t even think of this angle but have definitely been in this situation. Someone I worked with but didn’t manage did something we had changed in our process and no longer did. If it hit the next step and the wrong person opened it I knew she’d get blowback, so like an idiot I said to our manager “hey, Katie did this thing we aren’t supposed to do anymore, I don’t want her to get in trouble but it wasn’t my place to tell her not to do it” and my manager went back to Katie and said “Hey, Uranus said you were still doing X and you were clearly training last month in Y. You need to make sure this never happens again.” Lesson learned; I always just took my chances from there direct with employee. Katie pretended like I didn’t exist for months and all I thought (at the time) was that I was trying to help and got her in more trouble. Maybe this is OPs moment.

      4. JelloStapler*

        Yes, the boss should have said “This is not permitted and this is a head’s up” (then can say if it keeps happening they’ll have to take further measures).

        Sounds like a childish and chaotic place to work.

      5. Irish Teacher.*

        And I suspect the boss’s attitude could well have affected the LW’s. If the boss generally makes a huge fuss about these things, then well, if the LW is early career, they may well assume that if the boss makes such a big deal of it, it must be a serious issue (I remember in my early days as a teacher ignoring my own instincts on the grounds that my lecturers/more experienced teachers/the textbooks must know best; it can take a while to realise that not everybody in charge or with experience is necessarily a good example) or alternatively, they may have feared being held partially responsible themself if the boss found out they knew and didn’t report it (the latter is possible regardless of their experience).

        1. sparkle emoji*

          I think this is a good point. The boss’s reaction was so strange that it seems like they might be outside the norm in other ways. This workplace may have mild to moderate bees, and the LW needs to check their sense of norms. Writing to Allison was a great start and LW should continue checking things with people outside this workplace that they trust.

      6. Coffee Protein Drink*


        Formal discipline for this feels excessive. Telling the employee who informed on him makes me wonder why on earth the boss made that choice? Poor management is indeed the minimum that is. I try not to see motives when I don’t have enough information but this just doesn’t sit right with me and I can’t help by wonder.

    4. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Are you 5 yourself? There’s no such thing as a tattletale. And “backstabbing” is an even more incredibly melodramatic word choice.

      Act like a grownup if you have an issue. Name calling is childish behavior.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        I don’t know what the right words are, but LW did something really petty imo and deserves some clapback. Also sounds like the other guy isnt handling it great either

          1. Observer*

            It really doesn’t sound like they were intentionally being petty

            This is a classic case of “intentions are not magic.” If the OP didn’t realize how out of line they were, it’s good for them to hear.

          2. Hiring Mgr*

            Maybe not intentionally, but it just sounds like LW is going out of their way to report seemingly minor offenses. For LW’s own sake and their ability to get along with their colleagues I hope she reexamines.

          3. Salty Caramel*

            Impact matters more than intent. LW may not have meant for the other employee to be formally disciplined and it happened.

      2. sparkle emoji*

        Maybe calling someone a tattletale isn’t useful, but this behavior is essentially the workplace version of tattling. The term has a childish connotation because this behavior(running to tell an authority about a trivial transgression) is normally exhibited by children. There could be some details LW didn’t share about why the main issue wasn’t trivial in this instance. However, as explained in the letter it reads like it was trivial, and telling the boss rather than having a conversation first seems like childish tattling.

    5. Ashley*

      I think this is really office dependent. In a casual office I would say mention it to your co-worker, but there are some office with lots of rules and not reporting can cause you problems if it turns out you knew something.
      If you aren’t 100% on the policy I don’t think it is the worst thing to casually ask the boss about the policy and some bosses will pressure you on the why do you want to know. Those bosses sometimes reward that behavior which can create difficult team dynamics for sure.
      If this was AITA thread I would give this a solid ESH.

    6. DCLimey*

      Exactly. It’s all about perception, too. In the UK this person would be known as a “grass” and no one likes a grass. Where I come from grasses are seen as somewhere between nonces and screws. Not a good look.

  9. A*

    I mean congratulations LW now you are going to be known as a snitch and your coworkers will forever be wary of you. This really didn’t impact you at all, and you didn’t even have the decency to mention it to the person beforehand. Sure I agree this coworker shouldn’t be making you feel uncomfortable but you need to realize even if they stop doing it to your face, you definitely have a reputation now.

    1. Loaf*

      This. People are struggling with our economy, housing prices are through the roof, food and essentials are hard for many to afford, and you decided to narc on your coworker about some postage.

      The next time you feel the urge to do something like this, please pause and think “who is really be harmed here?”.

        1. Observer*

          The business that employs them both is harmed.

          Enough that it’s worth endangering someone’s livelihood?

          If mailing a few pieces of personal mail puts the business at risk of failure, the OP should be job searching, not policing other people’s behavior. And if it’s not that close to collapse, it’s hard to make the case that the damage is so significant that the OP could not even give the other person the grace of mentioning the issue to them.

            1. Not on board*

              While technically true, we really don’t have the whole picture here. Was it wrong to sneak in some mail? Sure. Was it terribly egregious? Well, we don’t know. Was this 3 envelopes one time or big packages or several envelopes every week?
              The OP seems petty for reporting the coworker without a heads up to the coworker themselves about the mail. We don’t know coworker’s situation, and this could be something akin to a starving person stealing some bread. Everyone is behaving abominably here – OP, mailing coworker, and especially the boss. Life is so much better when you don’t stick to a “rules are rules” mantra for Every. Little. Thing.

              1. STG*

                That’s kind of the point. We take the OP at their word that this is against the rules. I don’t think the rest of us get to decide whether it’s egregious enough for their bosses.

                1. Observer*

                  I don’t think the rest of us get to decide whether it’s egregious enough for their bosses.

                  Oh yes we can. And we should. Adults need to make judgement calls all. the. time.

                  Acting as though breaking ANY rules is so egregious that it’s worth endangering someone’s livelihood does not engender better rule keeping. But it does mean that the issues that really *are* egregious don’t get the attention they should get. Because when everything is an “emergency” nothing is.

              1. STG*

                I don’t remember seeing any indication that they weren’t informed.

                That would be their boss’ fault though regardless.

                1. Ellis Bell*

                  The part were the colleague complains to OP that no one informed them, and yeah; boss’s fault.

    2. Overit*

      My guess is that OP is one of those “Rules are RULES!” people.

      Two of my neighbors (Sue and Jean) were best of friends. Sue parked her RV in her driveway for 1 day more than allowed under HOA rules. Jean reported her to HOA, which fined Sue. Sue mentioned the fine in passing. Jean admitted she was the complainant.
      Sue asked Jean why she did not say something to her if the RV upset her. Jean’s answer: “I knew you had a good reason for the RV being there longer. And I did not care personally about the RV. But rules are rules! I HAD to report it.”
      Sue no longer is friends with Jean. Jean cannot understand why.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        This. Some people really don’t see the nuance, and that can be for a lot of reasons. I don’t get any sense from OP’s letter they’re being intentionally malicious.

        1. Coffee Protein Drink*

          It doesn’t matter if she was intentionally malicious. Her telling the boss about this had (way too severe) consequences in the form of formal discipline. This could hurt the co-worker’s chances for raises or promotions or transfers. While co-worker’s comments to the LW were also over the top, I think he has the right to feel angry.

        1. Overit*

          And Jean is living the natural consequences. Not only did she lose her best friend, the only people friendly with her now are the small minority of fellow rabid rule followers.
          Sue did her due diligence and proposed a change to the hoa bylaws — which was approved by the members. RVs can now be parked for up to 7 days in the driveway. Sue now always parks her RV for 7 days.

    3. Jade*

      Yes. And OP better not make even a single personal copy at the office as some others may play tit for tat. Don’t remove as much as a paper clip for personal use.

  10. Judge Judy and Executioner*

    At one place I worked you could use the company’s mail machine, but you had to pay a designated person for the postage. Signs were posted so you knew the cost and who to pay, and I remember bringing in change to pay for postage a couple times. I agree with Alison, it would have been better to chat with the coworker first, before escalating to a supervisor, unless there were reasons to not approach the person directly due to bad attitude, anger, etc.

    While it is strange the manager went the formal discipline route instead of a warning/info notice on policy is strange, at one place I worked a good salesperson and long time employee was fired for upgrading their seat on the company’s dime. They didn’t upgrade their seat, it was the fee for luggage that they had to take to the conference. This came to light after the firing. But the unreasonably disagreeable owner never apologized or hired them back.

        1. Judge Judy and Executioner*

          It’s reference to a Reddit thread on AITA (am I the a-hole), a woman asked for advice after her boyfriend was mad at her for throwing away his yogurt collection. Instead of offering a valid response as to why he needed over 2000 cups of yogurt in their 550 square foot home that was stinking up their home making it smell like rotten milk, he kept telling his girlfriend just to deal with it a little longer. He was upset after she threw it all away, and when she asked how he even got Iranian yogurt with the trade sanctions in their country, would only say “the Iranian yogurt is not the issue here” and that the problem was her throwing out his collection. The phrase became symbolic, as a way to share that there are far, far, bigger problems at hand than what appears on the surface.

        2. Observer*

          There is a fairly well known Reddit post about someone whose SO was “collecting” different types of yogurt, including some Iranian yogurt that is supposedly extremely rate because it’s contraband. That OP got rid of the yogurt and great drama ensued. The common response to the poster was “It’s not about the yogurt”. And it’s become something of a meme.

      1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        Funny, I assumed the coworker is the problem. That’s a way OTT reaction.

        Also, there is no such thing as a snitch. Can we stop with that kind of talk?

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            This is a scenario where Allison has many times said you can’t snitch or tattletale in a work setting

            1. Goldenrod*

              I think that’s a misinterpretation of what Alison has said.

              There is definitely such a thing as a snitch, if someone is making something so minor and petty their business and reporting it, when really, they should have let it go. Alison often tells people when they are overstepping…OP overstepped.

            2. Ellis Bell*

              Oh you definitely can, but a better description would be not staying in your lane. In general I think it’s better to describe behaviors than to turn a one off behavior into name calling. IMO, OP may have snitched about something petty, rather than reported a serious matter, but even if so, that doesn’t mean they ARE a snitch forevermore.

        1. Chairman of the Bored*

          There is indeed “such thing as a snitch” inasmuch as there are definitely people who will inform the authorities of minor infractions that do not involve them personally, often to further their own interests.

          Remember that kid in elementary school who would tell the teacher if other kids were passing notes or making funny faces at each other etc?

          Well, it turns out those kids eventually turn into grownups and very often continue to do the same sort of thing.

        2. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

          There is such a thing as a snitch. You may disagree that it’s a bad thing to be but being an unpaid enforcer of minor rules that most people don’t care to see enforced, either for personal advantage or for the simple pleasure of feeling like you’re on the side of the people in power, is absolutely a thing that people do.

      2. Venus*

        I wouldn’t consider this snitching given that using the company’s stamps is taking money from the company for personal uses, and I’m guessing the problem is with the coworker. They should have said something to the coworker first, but what they did wasn’t wrong unless they knew their managers were unreasonable and overreact.

        I was in a similar situation once, although in my case I brought it up with the person (specifically told them that it was against a written policy) and then never said anything until they were later found out by management. I didn’t run to management, but the topic was discussed and I commented that I’d told them on X date that it was against the rules. So it was clear that the person was knowingly breaking the rules and most importantly lying about their innocence, and they were reprimanded. I was viewed as the bad person by the employee because they didn’t understand their culpability, but thankfully we didn’t work together so it was easy to avoid them.

      3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        This, because I treat other people’s email alerts/inboxes the same with the same polite fiction Miss Manners recommends people use when hearing noises from the powder room during parties.
        If can read name of the sender and the subject line, I’ve read too much.

        If it is the equivalent of water leaking under the door (giant pornographic image, all bold !!! racist/hate phrase Let’s Go! well, yeah, I’m going to “notice” and react to that single situation.

        Yes, there is no expectation of privacy. But there is an expectation of civility. Reading my emails, scanning my inbox is the same as looking at papers on my desk. Do you have a reason to do that? As my peer, probably not.

    1. Helvetica*

      It’s never the yogurt.
      That’s why I also love Alison gently wondering if this isn’t one instance of behaviour but a pattern that the co-worker might object to.

  11. Skoobles*

    I cannot imagine why the letter writer would bother to report this, TBH. It isn’t a safety risk, it doesn’t jeopardize the company, it doesn’t have any material impact on their work, it isn’t their direct report… there’s just no reason to do it, and while yeah, the person *should* be the bigger person and be professional about it, they’d have to do a lot to be as disruptive as getting a coworker formally written up out of… boredom, I guess?

    1. Michelle Smith*

      I don’t know if I’d assume boredom necessarily (although some people definitely stir up stuff for fun, I’m not sure how many of them write in to AAM for a gut check). I’d guess it’s probably a misplaced assessment of norms and what rises to the level of “I should report this.” Given the manager’s reaction to receiving the report, I wonder how much of LW’s decision-making was impacted by being in this specific, potentially toxic work environment.

      I wonder if it’s worth it for LW to go back to their coworker and apologize. “Jim, I’ve thought about it and I really want to apologize to you for how I handled the mail situation. You’re right – I should have come to you first or just minded my own business. It won’t happen again.”

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          Oooh if I report people, maybe I won’t get flogged.

          If you were doing this to get in good with the boss, OP, you need to recalibrate your assessment of workplace norms. Its highly possible your boss’ poor management is affecting your judgment. Which means its time to get out.

        2. Ally McBeal*

          Oooooh. Yeah. That completely makes sense. Why “report” (snitch) on such a teeny-tiny issue if you weren’t looking to deflect your boss’s Eye of Sauron gaze away from yourself?

      1. Observer*

        Given the manager’s reaction to receiving the report, I wonder how much of LW’s decision-making was impacted by being in this specific, potentially toxic work environment.

        I think that’s a valid point. The whole situation is a lot.

    2. münchner kindl*

      If – as I assume, because otherwise I don’t see what the problem is in the first place – coworker used the company postage meter to pay for her private mail (so not putting her own stamps on the envelope) AND if the company OP works for has some public function, therefore stricter rules, then the principle is not about the monetary amount of a few dollars of postage, but that no company money ever can be used on private stuff for employees, and knowing about can cause big legal trouble for company.

      It’s still problematic that OP didn’t talk directly to the coworker first, but depending on legal rules for certain types of companies, yes, legal trouble could result, so reporting was the right step.

      And also where Alison’s comment that the boss/ company should have let a few dollars go might not apply: if there are legal consequences, the company and boss have to issue a strict warning to coworker, to avoid problems for themselves.

  12. Essentially Cheesy*

    I am the mail lady at work. We have very little mail that goes out and almost all of it is HR related for our production workforce (job postings for the union, for example). Everyone knows that I am the mail lady. Occasionally someone will give me a stamped piece of mail and I have no issue taking that to the post office. Rarely someone pops by and goofily asks for a stamp and mail delivery and I’ll spot them a stamp or two. In the grand scheme .. it’s all right. I do it for the sake of teamwork/building.

  13. Tom*

    LW, you should’ve done what 99% of the population would’ve done, which is mind your own damn business about something that doesn’t affect you in the slightest. I’d be mad at you, too.

  14. HonorBox*

    I’m going to assume LW went to the boss and asked if it was OK to use the company postage machine to send personal mail and how to reimburse the company. That’s the only way I think it is a reasonable “reporting” of such a small thing. Maybe the LW didn’t know it was OK. Maybe a policy had changed and they were verifying. Otherwise it just doesn’t make sense to make this an issue.

    1. Hamster*

      Yes but in this scenario, once boss would have said “absolutely not” OP should have just said OK and walked away and maybe warned said coworker privately. Not say “but (coworker) gets to do it!”

  15. AvonLady Barksdale*

    OK, I’m sorry, but… I am almost always a, “The policy sucks but it’s the policy” person, but this is ridiculous. Mailing service– are we talking about using the stamp machine? Or are we talking about giving personal mail to a front desk person to pass to the postal carrier? Either way, this is a very odd thing to object to. Even if it’s the former, and the co-worker is using the stamp machine without paying, that’s a heads-up, not something to report on.

    I would be SO mad at the LW for handling it that way. I remember someone speaking to me about using the printer for personal use, and it was a, “Hey, you know we’re not supposed to do that,” and I hadn’t realized, so I thanked them for the heads-up and I stopped. That was fine. This? This is not fine. Formal discipline for sending a few pieces of mail… sheesh.

    I will also note that outgoing mail at my building is a mess, the carrier doesn’t always pick it up, and there are no public mailboxes within 5 blocks of my urban apartment building. If I want to send mail, I go to the post office, which is a giant shlep. If I worked in an office, I’d probably send my mail from there too.

    1. Green Goose*

      I commented similar earlier. I actually was a bit of the dummy who used the work stamp machine to send out some personal mail early in my career and it would have really sucked to be immediately reported to my boss. It would have been much better to have a colleague pull me aside and say, “hey, you can’t do that and it would reflect badly on you if a higher up saw you doing it.” I would have been so grateful and stopped immediately.

  16. MS*

    Was your coworker using company money to send his mail? And if yes how much money? If he was just sending the occasional envelope of documents or return package I’d have cut him some slack. It seems overkill to formally discipline someone for sending a couple bucks worth postage but also it’s strange to report someone in the first place unless the coworker is operating his Etsy store from the office and mailing stuff out constantly for that or something

    1. Poison I.V. drip*

      People forget that it’s not safe to send mail from your own mailbox anymore. Too many opportunities for someone to steal it before it’s picked up and use it to scam you. On the rare occasion when I mail a check anymore I either take it straight to the post office or to my mail room at work. However this went down, even if the mailer was using company funds, the LW seems like they were too invested in getting to the bottom of it. I wouldn’t trust them either not to be a narc over minor stuff.

      1. Melissa*

        That seems pretty extreme. Most of us just use mailboxes like we’ve always used mailboxes. The USPS has always said not to mail cash, and I agree, but otherwise, it’s mail. It gets where it’s supposed to get most of the time.

        1. I Have RBF*

          LOL. We used to be able to put our outgoing mail on a clip near our mailbox. Then someone stole the clip. Now your best bet if you want to mail something is to stake out waiting for the mail carrier. There is no drop box within a city long block. The post office is insane to get into.

        2. Ally McBeal*

          Letter mail is pretty secure. But package theft is extremely common pretty much everywhere. I used to live in NYC and had all of my packages sent to my office until I moved into an apartment where my landlord’s business office was directly below my unit and could accept them while I was at work. And now I guess Amazon has some sort of skeleton-key arrangement with my apartment complex in the ‘burbs because they rarely ring my doorbell but still manage to place my packages inside the locked vestibule. My mother, meanwhile, lives in an area of town that hasn’t totally gentrified yet and she insists on receiving all her packages through one of those Amazon lockers at local businesses.

    2. Anita Brake*

      Yes, this, plus could LW prove that the coworker hadn’t reimbursed the company? Is LW Assistant Regional Manager or Assistant to the Regional Manager? Is LW a volunteer sheriff on the weekends?

  17. Czhorat*

    I have a few thoughts here:

    1) The playground rule that “snitches get stiches” should end when you outgrow playgrounds. Thanks to child labor laws, most people in the workforce are in this category.

    2) As some others have said, one should default to staying in ones lane except in extreme circumstances. Most people these days don’t send that much personal mail; the majority of bills can be paid online and most other correspondence is electronic. Unless he’s operating some kind of side business it’s unlikely that there are more than a handful of outgoing envelopes in a year. This isn’t exposing clients or coworkers to racist slurs, it isn’t threatening health or safety, it isn’t violating laws. It is – at most – the equivalent of taking a box of paperclips or pad of post-it notes home.

    3) There is ZERO reason for the manager to call you out for turning him in; it seems as if the manager thinks it was a ridiculous complaint, is following disciplinary procedure because of rigid adherance to rules, but wants you punished for it with public shame if nothing else.

    4) EVERYONE here overreacted. You in reporting this, the manager in giving your name and formally disciplining the coworker, the coworker in his reaction to you. The last, while not OK, is honestly the most understandable.

    As others have said, your workplace is full of bees, and it isn’t an apieary.

    1. ferrina*

      I completely agree with Point 1. This immediately felt like playground politics, and it is….a lot. I’m exhausted just reading about it. Much rather be forced to play a team-building game of tag rather than deal with this drama!

  18. ferrina*

    It seems like everyone in this story acted in a weirdly adversarial way (unless we’re really missing something)

    -OP immediately reported a few items of personal mail. Honestly, this would be such a small item for me that I probably wouldn’t even care/think it was my business unless the business had extremely thin profit margins. That also assumes that the co-worker was using the company budget for postage (rather than providing postage themselves and just bringing it to the office to pick-up). Even then, why didn’t OP say something to the co-worker? Going straight to the boss is such a Randall Weems move.

    -Boss formally disciplining coworker. That is a weirdly big step for what sounds like a few dollars? I’ve used more budget than that in losing pens. Why didn’t Boss just say “No using company resources, k thx.”? And then naming OP as the reporter? It’s extremely easy to say “It has come to my attention…” Boss is almost asking for drama by saying “OP tattled on you, so I’m writing you up”. Is Boss clueless, or was Boss trying to deflect from their own authority by implying “I wouldn’t need to do this if OP hadn’t said something, so blame OP not me.”

    -Coworker making a big deal of this. If coworker was a bit cranky and mistrustful of OP, yep, I get it. But again, Coworker chooses the path of Maximum Drama. Just….why? Be annoyed and give them wide berth, but actively hostile? Because Coworker broke the rules? If Boss was trying to make OP the Bad Guy, then Boss’s silly games have won out.

    OP, think if you really want to stay in this place. When you’re one killer robot away from an Archer plot, that’s not a healthy working environment. Good luck.

    1. Lacey*

      Yes. All the reaction were odd and out of proportion.
      I assume it’s a terrible workplace to produce so many absurd responses.

    2. Steve-Oh*

      My take on coworkers response is that they now feel like OP is willing to put other peoples jobs in jeopardy, and that that is a Big Enough Deal to
      alert the masses about. Not saying it’s right, but I personally would want the heads up to be extra careful around Gary because he goes straight to the boss.

      Also myread on why the boss would say who made the report is that they don’t agree with needing to discipline the employee over this but they work somewhere with rigid policies and boss doesn’t have a choice, but he is going to let employee know who it was who put him in this position.

    3. Generic Name*

      I feel like there must be a lot of context left out of this letter, otherwise, everyone’s reaction is way OTT. I have to wonder if LW and the Illicit Mailer are feuding or something, or maybe this is the next-to-the-last-straw for the mailer. I mean, a formal reprimand? Just so much yikes.

  19. Juicebox Hero*

    Oh, good golly, I thought this was about EMAIL, not snail mail. Reading comprehension and Monday brain don’t mix.

    Does this mean that the coworker was using the office’s postage meter/prepaid postage envelopes for their personal correspondence? If so, I can understand why the coworker was disciplined; 66 cents a stamp is worth a lot more than a few cents’ worth of printer paper. I can’t imagine why anyone would care if they were putting in mail with postage that they paid for themself.

    If the former, I wonder if their reaction has a bit of a sour grapes/”you put an end to my freebies so I hate you, you terrible person” vibe to it.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        In itself 66c isn’t a lot but it adds up quicker than you might think … he does this a lot (otherwise what are the chances that OP, who doesn’t work with him, just happened to catch him on the one day that he did this) and it is multiple items at a time. Who even sends that many things through the post anymore – I expect it is some kind of side business or all his family are giving him letters to post since he can do so “free”.

          1. Juicebox Hero*

            Two things I should have mentioned in my post and didn’t: LW should have talked to the coworker themself first. And while I agree that the postage-abusing employee should have faced some sort of consequences, I think the boss went wayoverboard in making it a written warning and was an asshole to tell postage poacher who ratted them out.

            I’ve only experienced one earthquake, but they happen all over the world every day. And just because they’re not severe ones that level cities and kill people, it doesn’t mean that they don’t happen.

            In my experience, people who do little shady things have been doing them for a long time because either no one wants to bother with penny-ante stuff, or they don’t want to burn captial on something little, or they silently cheer them on for getting some of their own back. And I’ve seen them get busted, and they don’t like it one little bit.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              This is the first time the LW noticed it (despite them sharing a workspace) so I think we can assume it’s the first time. Also, I don’t think a person equating using a stamp (which, to be clear, isn’t even a given here) with printing out something personal on the printer is “shady”. Yes, one costs more than the other, but I certainly wouldn’t ding someone for thinking they were on the same plane.

              1. sparkle emoji*

                Yes, and $.66 is less than a piece of printer paper but it’s pretty on par with the cost of a pen or similar office supplies that people occasionally take from an office. Going off what’s in the letter, the likely cost to the company is in the tens of dollars(assuming the worst, that these were packages rather than letters), which is still in the realm of what a business might lose on office supplies getting lost or taken home.

      2. Myrin*

        It’s not “worth a lot [fullstop]”, it’s “worth a lot more than a few cents’ worth of printer paper”. Regardless of whether you find 66 cents a negligible amount or not, it IS objectively a lot more than a few cents.

    1. Observer*

      If so, I can understand why the coworker was disciplined; 66 cents a stamp is worth a lot more than a few cents’ worth of printer paper.

      Except that at that price, the person would have had to have sent out a LOT of mail to bring it to a fraction of what disciplining them would have had to cost.

      Clearly no one was monitoring the mail usage that closely – again, for the same reason. I’m not saying that they were right for doing this. But this is still an over-the-top response.

    2. Juicebox Hero*

      The OP posted below that it was several big manila envelopes that cost about $30 to mail, so this was more than someone running a couple of bills through the postage meter. First offense of not, the OP was definitely justified in doing something about it.

  20. Fluffy Fish*

    OP this is a good example of the world is grey, not black and white.

    Strictly but the book – yes what you did was report a violation of rules.

    But you are working with humans and on the grand scale of rule breaking – this was so incredibly petty. What was your motivation? What did you want the outcome to be? Because if it was to ensure your colleague knew the rule and wasn’t breaking it you chose the absolute most nuclear option. You made your point. But you damaged your reputation.

    Yes strictly by the book your colleague is over-reacting to your role in the situation. But again, you work with humans not robots. So what happened was a guy got officially reprimanded for something super minor. And that’s not on you (that’s a bad business decision) but you were the catalyst. So now you have a bunch of coworkers who don’t trust you – because I promise everyone else thinks you’re a jerk for handling it this was, not just the guy that got written up.

    You will have to do a lot to win back peoples trust and the reality is – you may never.

    1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

      And I have to say, what exactly did OP expect would happen? They skipped over the simple conversation in favor of making sure Boss came down like a hammer.

      If the goal was “co-worker should follow policy,” why not speak directly to co-worker about policy?
      If the answer is: “because they wouldn’t listen to me/say I was being silly/are already hostile to me,” then why not ask why that’s the case? If it’s because OP has done this before, or because most people find the policy has more flex than OP does, then maybe that’s a clue that perhaps this issue doesn’t need the escalation.

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        i try not to make up stories but I also fail to see what motivation there was except for “to get coworker in trouble”.

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      Yes, I always wonder how people have the time to scrutinize what everyone else is doing.

  21. Rex Libris*

    A good percentage of questions: “I have a coworker whom I rarely interact with and what they’re doing doesn’t actually affect me in any way. I’m not their supervisor, but I felt the need to stick my oar in because reasons. Was I wrong?” Answer: “Yes, yes you were.”

  22. Some Dude*

    I didn’t even get past the title of the article before I was screaming “NAAAAAAARC!” in my head.

  23. Michelle Smith*

    Are you the person in charge of the mail? Like is it your responsibility to ensure that this particular policy is followed or does it impact you in some way? I have worked in offices with similar policies and the only people who complained about the use of the office system to send personal letters were the mail room staff, presumably because it increased the weight of things they had to pick up every day + they didn’t want to be responsible for random coworkers’ bills getting to their destinations on time.

    If you don’t have mail responsibilities though, I hardly understand why you complained to anyone about this. I personally think it’s weird that you’d even bring it up to the coworker. Not your monkeys, not your circus. Respectfully, I think you should have just minded your business.

  24. Name (Required)*

    Yeah, your manager sucks for giving your name. They are not very good at their job if they are doing stuff like that.

    1. Czhorat*

      I suspect this is how the manager expressed irritation at this issue being raised in the first place; it could be that the manager felt they HAD to discipline for policy reasons but was annoyed enough at OP for making it an issue that they deliberately gave the name as a kind of retaliation.

        1. Czhorat*

          Oh, I wasn’t saying that the boss was JUSTIFIED if that’s what he did; literally everyone in the situation could have handled it much better.

      1. Goldenrod*

        Yeah, I’m actually kind of glad the boss reported the name! I hate when people are allowed to throw rocks behind a wall.

      2. PleaseNo*

        if manager had to follow policy it’s not surprising OP reported a deviation from policy since that would be expected at a place with strict adherence.

        i don’t like that manager named-called the person to everyone. a good manager wouldn’t do that.

      3. Rex Libris*

        Yeah. It’s still Not Done as a manager, but it sounds to me like they couldn’t overcome the urge to say something like “OP reported you for using company postage, so I have to put a written warning in your file that we talked about this.”

    2. Ellis Bell*

      I’ve got to wonder if the boss is making OP twitchy and paranoid about even being an onlooker to any sort of rule breaking. I know that’s speculative, but to penalise the colleague for something that could have been a mild warning, whilst outing OP as reporting it, which obviously is making everyone paranoid about being watched, makes them sound like a boss made of bees.

  25. Morgan Proctor*

    I’m sorry, WHAT? Do y’all work for the CIA? I have never worked anywhere where it wasn’t totally fine to send and receive personal mail at work. This is totally bizarre to me. Ratting out a coworker over this is bizarre. “Formally” disciplining that employee is bizarre. Is this a common company policy? I mean seriously, everywhere I’ve worked there’s an “outgoing mail” bin that people just toss their rent checks or whatever into. It’s a thing. What, was the employee using company stamps to send their mom a birthday card? Are we getting out of shape for defrauding the company out of 66 cents? What’s next, writing up people who take their company-issued pens home with them? This letter is bizarre to me, and the fact that people are defending the LW or the company, even lightly, makes me feel like I forgot that I took psychedelics this morning.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      I work for gov and it’s super not ok – even if we are paying for the postage. It takes gov salary time on personal things not official business which is why it’s frowned upon.

      That said, a first offense would never be a formal reprimand.

      1. Lucy*

        Uhh so do I (not in the US) and it is super not a big deal unless you make it one. Like, ok, workplace culture differs, and I’m not trying to claim it’s not *made* a big deal where you are, but I find it so weird when people are like, “there are really important reasons this matters!” And the reason is, “because all the important people say so”.

        1. Fluffy Fish*

          I’m not sure what you are getting at?

          I was giving an example to original poster the reasoning behind why an employer would care about employee sending or receiving personal mail.

          It’s not because “important people said so”. It’s because there’s optics surrounding government employees and use of government resources. We are expected to be good stewards of taxpayer funds and using government funds in the form or salary on non-government business is in treated as a big deal to the point there are formal rules.

          As stated, at my particular employer this situation would never be a formal reprimand.

          1. Lucy*

            Sorry, I’m not trying to have a go at you. Partly because my workplace culture is different and partly because of my own views on the ideal give and take of a good workplace (which are inevitably informed by my own background and culture), it is bizarre to me that something as small as sending personal mail would be considered *not* being a “good steward of government funds”. If you bear in mind that my salary is paid out of government funds, the time taken to post the letter myself is time I’m probably going to spend just finishing an email after the end of the day, or checking up on a child, even though I’m technically on leave. No one in my workplace would begrudge me that, think it was dishonest of me to take it (again – all those minutes of time I’m working but not getting paid? Far, far more valuable!), or that somehow, allowing this would create bad “optics”. Are there bad optics around government or council staff here? Totally! Is it around sending letters with council or government stamps, or printing personal items on company printers? Of course not. It’s actually, usually about the unnecessary delays and red tape caused by overly officious policing of these kinds of petty policies and regulations.

            So, I’m not criticising you, I’m just trying to note that the reasons you list and buy into here are not objective principles. From my perspective, they *are* just important people making stuff up to justify their own preferences. From your perspective they’re valid and true, and that’s fine, but I just don’t think this *needs* to be a big deal.

            I guess it feels like a frog in a pot of water thing – if this is made a huge deal in your workplace, are you all ok? Are they this officious about every little thing? Do you need a reminder that it’s not universal to be policed on this stuff?

            1. Fluffy Fish*

              Ok again – I am not saying it is made a HUGE deal the way you seem to be taking it out to be. People are not running around firing and disciplining people. It is a big deal in the sense that we have formal rules about it. It’s an utter non-issue – I can simply put a letter in my own mailbox on my way to work. I don’t have any legitimate need to have any personal packages delivered here. It’s simply not done – it’s very easy to not handle my personal mail business at work. I admit I’m baffled that you seem to think it’s a horror that I can’t mail a letter at work.

              It’s great you don’t think its an issue – given that you don’t work in US gov, you are operating under a totally different set of public perception. I’m not trying to explain to you why how your government operates is wrong. Again, I am explaining to the person who asked and has never seemingly heard of it being an issue, an example of why it would be considered an issue.

              Again it’s about optics. It’s the same reason I can’t go out drinking in my uniform or run an errand if I’m using a company vehicle.

              I don’t know how else to say you are taking this to a level it is simply not at.

              1. Lucy*

                I mean, the way my government operates is totally wrong on a ton of levels. You can tell me that – no one knows better than me. I mean, I’ll probably just agree with you. (E.g., literally, an emergency payment for someone in desperate need takes three days? Even if their desperate need is the council’s fault because they screwed up and didn’t pay them their salary? And the finance team that made the error is going to be snarky and rude about it, and never apologise? Seriously? Sort yourself out, British system! Geez.)

                I can’t step out of my culture for long enough to know 100% that this kind of petty thing being “super not ok” (however you define that) would still feel silly and infantilising to me if I was used to another system. But I’m about 98% sure it would because there are plenty of things in the system I *am* in/used to which feel silly and infantilising to me…

                It’s fine that you disagree though.

          2. doreen*

            There are other issues as well – for example , when I worked at a government agency there was a rule about sending or receiving personal mail. There was a mailroom in one building that served four offices located in the same general area and if I had put outgoing mail in my office’s mailbox, even if I had stamped it there was a fairly good chance it would be put through the postage meter anyway. The rules weren’t really enforced until someone claimed their Victoria’s Secret package went missing. and they raised all kinds of hell and accused the mailroom staff of stealing it.

          1. Lilo*

            We have interagency mail, so, yes. To send anything you have to badge into the mail room. Physical mail is quite rare anyway.

        1. former lab rat*

          Ha – I not only worked for the federal government – I worked at Fort Detrick. We were not allowed to put ANY personal mail in the outgoing box.

    2. Michelle Smith*

      In my admittedly anecdotal experience working primarily in government and nonprofit offices, yes policies like this are a thing. I’m not sure 100% if it’s the nature of the work or that people abused it, but it’s definitely not just this one person’s workplace.

      1. HonorBox*

        Non-profit worker here, and we have a policy about postage which simply states that prepaid postage (stamps or through the machine) are treated the same as cash and employees are to reimburse if they use. But there’s no policy that says we can’t buy postage if we need it and don’t have a stamp. Nor is there a policy that says we can’t just put our outgoing mail in the outgoing mail bin.

        There’s a lot of context missing in this letter. I’m really unsure WHY it is such a big deal that someone has a few items of personal mail to send… that would be helpful to know.

    3. Meemur*

      These are my thoughts too, especially in low paid jobs. Office stationary is fair game, it’s like an unwritten rule

      1. Kyrielle*

        I have always found that unwritten rule weird and offputting, and the idea of people just lifting pens and paper for their own use bugs me. So I…don’t do it myself. Unless a coworker is Fedexing heavy boxes or walking off with the printers, I wouldn’t think to report them (or probably even notice). I’m unlikely to even say anything about (or notice!) small amounts of office supplies, though if they for some reason boasted about it I might make a comment to them. Maybe.

    4. ferrina*

      Everyone in this story behaved in such an overly dramatic way. Where do y’all work? This is the kind of group dynamics we usually see in TV shows, not real workplaces (though I’ve worked a couple places that weren’t far off from this). I’m super curious where it is that is this low-key dysfunctional!
      Maybe non-profit with an “every dollar is previous and also we over-value transparency and are simultaneously over-punitive and conflict avoidant”?

      1. Observer*

        Maybe non-profit with an “every dollar is previous and also we over-value transparency and are simultaneously over-punitive and conflict avoidant”?

        I’ve spent my working life primarily in non-profits, and the “every cent is precious” mind set is common. And policies against any person use of postage are also common. But still this whole saga is wild to me.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I’ve definitely worked places with these policies, even places that were relatively intense about it…we all took stamps anyway or brought our personal stuff with us on a post office run.

          I want to be kind to OP but in my experience there are few offices where this is warranted. Maybe government.

    5. Bast*

      I can honestly say that in no place that I have worked in would this be THIS big of a deal. I have worked in multiple offices with various policies. In none of them could you, say, mail out our wedding invitiations (and this DID happen at one office, interestingly enough) but a couple of pieces of personal mail was never a big deal here and there. In one office, you were expected to pay the mailroom clerk for it before he’d give you a stamp, and in all of the others, you had pretty much free rein as long as it wasn’t being abused (ie: no wedding invites, no huge packages or overnight mail, etc) and at MOST, even if you did send something personal that you shouldn’t have, the reaction from the manager would be along the lines of “Please don’t do that again.” And that’s if it even escalated — most of the time I cannot think that anyone in any of my offices would have bothered to say anything, unless it was something huge and noticeable, like a box, or like, 50 envelopes that were clearly not business-looking. And AT MOST if anyone DID say anything, it would be “Just so you know, we aren’t allowed to use the postage machine for that.” It would have NOT have blown up into this big deal, and I’ve worked in some dramatic offices. The responses from EVERYONE in this letter is extra to the max.

  26. Cicely*

    “They are mad that I didn’t talk to them directly first…”

    …with good reason. I can’t imagine caring about a coworker using work mail service, let alone not going to the co-worker first.

  27. Delta Delta*

    We need more details. First, is this a workplace that has legal issues around postage, such as a member of congress misusing their franking privilege? Second, is this pre-stamped mail that the employee simply put in the outgoing mail, or did they use office-purchased postage? And if it’s the second, did they reimburse for postage? Last, how much are we talking about? A couple letters or a giant box of wedding invitations or a bunch of eBay sales?

    I can’t say whether this is okay, but wow, OP seems sort of … snitchy. There’s a strong tattletale vibe here and without more information it’s hard to know if it’s reasonable.

    I’d be interested in an update here because the comment section seems interested in more info.

    1. ferrina*

      YES! This is so low-stakes and I really want an update! This can’t be the only weird thing going on at this workplace. Is OP aware of how weird this whole thing is? Is OP okay? I could see this being a case where an OP has a weird reaction to a toxic workplace (especially the stealth toxicity that’s hard to point to exactly). Poor OP is getting eviscerated in the comments, but honestly, OP is the least bad person in this story (though OP didn’t behave well either).

  28. H.Regalis*

    To be pithy: Everyone sucks here.

    OP, you should have left well enough alone. This did not affect you in any way. Coworker shouldn’t be on a campaign to get everyone to hate you, but I honestly understand why they’re angry with you, although I don’t agree with how they’re acting about it; and the manager should not have named you as the source of the complaint. Is this really how it sounds, as in formal discipline for popping a stamped envelope in the outgoing mail bin? If so, that is a ridiculous amount of overkill.

  29. starsaphire*

    This is kind of ESH, but let’s not come down too hard on the OP. The OP’s at about a 2 of 10 on the not-great-behavior meter, the boss is about an 8, and the co-worker is taking it to 11.

    OP, I’d get out of that place before the bees warp your sense of office-normal way too far.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      OP, who is not their colleagues manager and who’s job is not mail, carried out a personal investigation so they could then tattle to their mutual boss instead of either minding their own business or speaking directly with the coworker.

      That’s a bit more than a 2 IMO.

    2. Teacher on a Monday*

      I think OP’s level is higher than you have estimated. Not great behavior of a 2 would not include possible messing with someone’s paycheck.

    3. L-squared*

      I find the OP not as bad as the boss, but worse than the coworker.

      OP went to the boss for the sole purpose of getting that person in trouble. If that wasn’t the purpose, they would have spoken to them first. And so yeah, they kind of deserve to have others know the type of person they are. If they are proud of what they did, then they should own the fact that they went to a supervisor. But apparently they know on some level they were bad for doing that.

    4. Jennifer Strange*

      I think the OP’s worse than the co-worker. The OP responded to something that (barring further information) was incredibly low-stakes and had zero impact on them. At least the co-worker’s response (while not great) is in response to something that specifically affected them.

    5. Kara*

      OP is at a 6 at least. They aren’t responsible for managing either co-worker or company mail, took it upon themselves to “investigate”, and then tattled to a boss that isn’t theirs, resulting in an overreaction by said boss and a formal writeup of co-worker.

      1. starsaphire*

        I borrowed the terminology, but I’m not applying the rules. FWIW, I’m not a Redditor.

        Apologies for any confusion. :)

      2. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        Because we are in a scenario where literally no character in the letter is behaving well and that feels more like we are being asked to assess who is the MOST wrong. And almost all of AITA boils down to “Here is a situation where no one is behaving particularly well, but I am pretty sure one of us is being the biggest doofus.”

    6. Ellis Bell*

      Whatever the number you’d assign to OP’s initial actions, they wrote in to get better advice and protocols than their workplace is currently giving them, so that’s about a 7 on the having good sense front. +1 to your last sentence.

  30. Productivity Pigeon*

    I guess I wonder what LW’s actions really led to.

    No one is better off because LW told their boss this. It’s created discord and anger over a couple of stamps.

    Note: I believe the employer acted out of line too.

  31. Akcipitrokulo*

    So you didn’t like your co-worker before this?

    Honestly, reporting this sounds pretty petty, and as if you were out to get them.

    it’s worth thinking about how you would feel. What they were doing wasn’t right, but it was hardly the crime of the century, and cliping on co-workers about minor things that don’t affect you leaves an unpleasant taste

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      To be clear,manager was worse. And if co-worker is being as dramatic as said, they aren’t handling it well either. In order of blame –

      1) manager for making a formal disciplinary out of a molehill
      2) you for being petty and means spirited, and unprofessional I. not talking to him
      3) co-worker for letting his – justifiable – irritation go too far

  32. Meemur*

    Sometimes when I read letters on here, I’m reminded of the quote from Derry Girls, “You will go far in life, Jenny, but you will not be well liked”
    This is one of those times.

    1. Lucy*

      I genuinely loled. Thank you for this, I had had a bad day and it has reminded me that I can just go home and rewatch Derry Girls.

    2. Insert Clever Name Here*


      Incidentally, I need an entire spin off series with Sister Michael as the main character.

    3. Algernon*

      Can I just tell you that I just spent four (4!) days with an Uncle Colm clone and now I’m recovering (silently) at home?

      1. Delta Delta*

        One of my favorite things to say if I realize I’ve been talking too long is, “Colm, this is no day for a ‘do.” We all have our Uncle Colm moments!

  33. Sam*

    Yeah LW this is literally adult tattling and it isnt a good look. You absolutely can tattle on your coworkers constantly over things that dont matter, but don’t be surprised when people don’t trust you and view you negatively. Yeah the other coworker should cool it a bit but you shouldn’t expect to be popular or trusted if you make choices like this.

  34. Lucy*

    Seriously though, if it’s not a tiny, indie business, why is this even an issue? Maybe it is, but even then, it’s more thoughtless than theft. If the business is hiring as many people as this sounds like, one guy’s personal mail is not going to impact its bottom line. I work in an under resourced, overwhelmed, public sector role, and one time, I mentioned to my boss I was stopping at the library to print a 75 page sewing pattern in my way home and she was like, “literally just use the printers. It costs us pennies, and the value any employee adds above and beyond their salary is dramatically higher than the cost of a bit of ink”.

    Penny-pinching, tale-telling, formal discipline for basically no reason – this sounds like a toxic workplace to me. I can trust any of my colleagues not to “tell on me” if I do a small thing like this, and my manager to roll her eyes at them if they do. It’s all so silly. It honestly reminds me of teaching Year 7. “Miss! He ate a Smartie! Miss!”. Most of the kids grow out of it before they hit their teens…

    Anyway, tl;dr, OP may not be technically and formally in the wrong but I wouldn’t enjoy working with them. Reminds me of a former boss who used to systematically refuse our expenses to see if we cared enough to put them back in again. While fraudulently taking days and days of unearned “toil” and reporting her expenditure on her stepdaughter’s extracurricular activities as team building events (no, we weren’t invited to them…).

  35. Neysalmd*

    This entire company seems toxic.
    1) OP reporting the coworker
    2) Boss punishing the coworker
    2a) Boss telling CW that OP reported them.
    3) CW being openly hostile.

  36. Observer*

    I’ve gone on the record multiple times that for the most part, “tattling” and “snitching” is not really a thing in the workplace. But, this is a case where it seems to me that those terms actually do apply.

    I don’t think that your coworker is handling things well. But, based on what you describe I would also come to that conclusion. That you “noticed” the mail, and looked closely enough to be able to confirm that they were using the company’s system is odd enough to start with. But then you went to the effort of confirming it. Why were you that invested in such a small item? Unless you are in charge of the postage budget, or it was clearly a large amount of money, I really think you over-stepped.

  37. Work in Progress*

    LW, “Are they justified in being angry with me?” is a red-flag question because
    ____ people have a right to feel however they feel, no matter whether someone else thinks those feelings are justified, and — more to the point —
    ___ that’s the question typically asked by people who don’t know how to approach others with a concern, generally because they don’t feel sturdy enough to withstand another person’s displeasure. People who operate this way typically grew up in hypercritical homes, which are also homes where their needs weren’t met. (There’s an element of “What my sibling is doing isn’t *fair*!” in the original offense that makes me think you might have grown up in such a home — they’re pretty common.)

    If this is, or even might be, the case for you, then please consider working with a therapist so you can learn how to approach others neutrally when you have a concern (which might have kept this situation from escalating) and also so you can shrug off another person’s displeasure / anger instead of being drawn into the drama. None of this is a criticism; my post is motivated by a desire for you to feel stronger, to make decisions that don’t cause consequences you don’t want, and to feel less susceptible to the displeasure of others. Good luck.

  38. NotARealManager*


    Since you’re both on the same org chart level, unless it’s a large volume of personal mail the co-worker is regularly sending, who cares? If you were their boss, responsible for enforcing company policy in some way, or if it were interfering with your work, then you could mention something to them. From your letter, none of those seem to be the case so it looks petty.

    Your boss doesn’t need to formally discipline someone over mail policy unless it’s an egregious case, especially if your coworker honestly didn’t realize the mail policy wasn’t the same as the printer policy. All that’s needed is a reminder for an honest mistake.

    Finally your co-worker doesn’t need to conclude that you’re “out to get everyone” because you blew the whistle on them. Reporting them to your boss was an overreactions but this is an overreaction to the overreaction.

    As others have noted, there’s probably more toxic behavior or feelings happening at this workplace than the letter notes. A “well-adjusted” workplace wouldn’t elicit these responses.

  39. Chidi Anna Kendrick*

    This… is so petty. Unless a coworker is doing something that impacts how other people do their jobs or how customers make use of whatever services you’re providing, leave them alone. If I were the tattled on party for something like this, I wouldn’t be making claims that you were coming for me, LW, but I’d def be giving you side eye for the foreseeable future.

  40. Janethesame*

    The disciplined employee warning others may be wise. This incident may signal(or even set up) a shift in the culture of this workplace, from relaxed to rigid. Employees probably won’t leave over the incident, but some may eventually go over the culture shift, if this incident starts a trend. And a lot of people might find themselves a little less happy at work. if they have to think through every action of the day with the possibility of a note in their file as opposed to just being told “hey, don’t do that.”

  41. DramaQ*

    I’m shocked this was elevated to formal discipline. Everywhere I’ve worked didn’t care if you used the mailbox from time to time. I was even able to get a stamp or two from the office if I needed one. As long as I wasn’t abusing it or trying to charge it to the company it was fine.

    And then the manager informed them who tattled?

    There seems to be a lot of dysfunction going on here that doesn’t warrant the level of response it got. I can understand why the co-worker is pissed even if I don’t agree with how he is handling it.

    Especially since it seems like it was a one time event. I’ve had time sensitive stuff I wanted to get in the mail ASAP but there wasn’t a post office box within spitting distance and I’d have to drive out of my way to get to an actual post office. Our office is no longer open on Saturdays either so that was out. So I stuck them in the mail slot at work. Nobody said boo about it.

    Going forward the letter writer needs to consider how many mountains they want to make out of molehills. Yes everyone should behave professionally, which this coworker is not, but I wouldn’t trust my coworker with anything beyond the bare minimum they need to know to do my job and theirs. God forbid I use a pencil for personal reasons at my desk, don’t want to get formally written up for that.

    Some things you just need to decide not my monkey not my circus. The coworker sending what appeared to be a one time stack of mail through the office mail was one of those.

  42. JelloStapler*

    Are they using company stamps/account numbers or just sending their mail – with their OWN stamps – through the outgoing mail? Did LW know this for sure before running up the flag? At many places I know, as long as you use your own stamp, no one cares if it’s in the bulk of outgoing mail. I would not have even thought that was frowned upon so a quick heads-up would have been appreciated. If it’s against the policy, it’s against the policy.

    If they were using company stamps, then that is not smart to assume it’s okay on the other person’s part, but I would still mention it to them so they are aware it has been noticed.

    I do agree that strong snitch vibes are coming from the LW but I could be wrong.

  43. NB*

    This is what stuck out to me: “Anyway, one day I noticed an employee on the other team, who overall does a good job, with a few personal mail items on their desk. It was apparent to me and later confirmed that they were using our office’s mailing service to send personal mail.”

    This means you went out of your way to investigate as to why your coworker had personal mail on their desk rather than just…minding your own business. At best that makes you the most rigid corporate rules-follower, and at worst, yeah, it looks like you were out to get your coworker.

    Following policies so blindly without considering nuance or compassion doesn’t make you a good employee, it makes you a bad coworker.

  44. L-squared*

    I’m not saying his behavior is or isn’t justified, but its definitely understandable.

    If I were in that situation, I probably wouldn’t openly be saying what he is. However, you can bet I’d be letting my friends know that they need to watch what they do/say around you, because you have now shown that you are willing to go tattle to management. Because this seemed like a fairly minor thing. Probably slightly above using a printer, but below taking home office supplies on occasion.

    I do have to wonder why you care so much about a few personal letters being sent out. Even if its not technically allowed, I just couldn’t see myself choosing to go to a manager about that.

  45. Busy Middle Manager*

    From a logistical perspective, the line at the post office is always long and you may not be near a mailbox/drop off point. Stores that used to sell stamps and envelopes and little things like that either don’t sell them anymore or went out of business, so just finding a stamp can be a whole thing.

    I’m not even against “reporting” stuff, but the logistics here are as described above. Also a lot of us have jobs where we catch $5K, $10K errors. I don’t think anyone cares that I don’t go on a 30 minute hunt to find a stamp when I’m bringing value in other areas.

  46. Lilo*

    The boss and coworker’s reaction is so overwhelmed the top here it makes me suspicious that coworker was doing more or there’s a reason for this.

    I’ve worked for government and I wasn’t allowed to physically accept any mail that didn’t go through the mail room first and they were very, very strict about it. Someone tried to send me something by FedEx and it became a whole thing because they would not understand why I refused to accept a package and kept sending them to the mail room.

    1. Betty*

      Having worked as a Senate intern around the time of the Anthrax mailings– there can also be security concerns about directly accepting mail. Mail to certain government offices goes through xray machines to make sure it’s not an explosive device (and, at least in that era, was additionally irradiated to kill anthrax spores). And while bypassing that could be a big safety concern that might be serious enough to merit a formal reprimand, it’s hard to make a similar case for why *outgoing* mail would be a security issue (and, clearly, no similar reason for that policy described here)

      1. Lilo*

        I mean because we have interagency mail and because there are feds who have been bad actors too, including the actual anthrax perpetrator.

  47. BellyButton*

    *blinkblinkblink* As others have said we need more details, was it their own stamps, were they mailing out large packages on company account numbers?
    I probably wouldn’t even NOTICE that the envelopes sitting on someone’s desk were personal. If it was a few personal letters, my instinct is it is petty– it is hard to get to the post office often in the middle of the day. How many letters do we get here in which people talk about the inflexibility of their hours or boss letting them leave a few minutes early, or being able to take a long enough lunch to go to the post office?
    I am a big believer in MYOB.

    1. JelloStapler*

      This brings up a point – how close was LW to the person’s desk to notice it was *personal* mail?

  48. Ele4phant*

    I mean you may be correct in the letter of the law, but in the spirit? God so petty.

    And your boss’s reaction totally disproportionate. At most “hey fyi, no personal outgoing mail at work plz.”

    Your whole workplace sounds toxic to be honest.

  49. duinath*

    comment section is really hostile today. was this op’s water to carry? no. is it egregious to let someone know when people are not following protocol? no. in hindsight we can say op should have brought it up with the coworker first, but based on their reaction now hindsight may actually suggest that would be really dumb. someone who will darkly mutter about how you’re out to get them, especially in the workplace, is someone who is weirdly agressive in a way where kindly letting them know they fucked up can go badly. the boss bringing op into it was also dumb as hell, but the coworker is the one who was in the wrong in the first place, and they’re even more in the wrong now that they’ve embraced their supervillain monologues. op’s life will be easier if they let things pass, sure, but they told the truth to the person they thought was best suited to handle it, and that’s neither immoral nor unkind, imho.

    1. Lilo*

      As someone who worked in criminal law as a victim coordinator, I find the repeated use of “snitches get stitches” quite disturbing because I have actually encountered people just trying to stop violence in their community who were attacked. I would highly recommend excising that phrase from your vocabulary.

      1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        I mean, but it is a bit like when people say “drink the Kool-aid”– the expression is divorced enough from the origins in most people’s minds they aren’t actually endorsing the circumstances under which the phrase first arose. No one here is advocating for physical violence against someone who provides information to try and stop people from being hurt or killed. But they are acutely aware that what the LW did was more akin to calling the cops on someone for selling loosies in a country where people are regularly killed during arrests for non-violent offenses rather than being a witness for the prosecution in a rape/murder trial.

    2. Anya Lastnerve*

      Thank you – I’m appalled by the comments tarring and feathering OP while letter her coworker off despite him being the one pilfering from his employer and then acting wildly unprofessionally when he was caught. I work in financial services – all types of financial misfeasance are frowned upon so I’m also shocked at the commenters who think we should turn a blind eye to any stealing that doesn’t directly affect our jobs. Would you want your money manager to be pilfering from their employer? Would you be okay if your money manager stole “just” a few dollars here and there from your account to buy stamps or get a coffee? Would you not want anyone to mention low levels of theft from your account because it didn’t affect them?

    3. Bibliothecarial*

      I agree. I’d like to stick up for the OP a little bit and hope they were doing the best they could with the information they had. In most or all of my workplaces we were operating on such a shoestring budget that a stamp or two would be a big deal and everyone knew that. In my current workplace (small government in US), if I saw someone outside my team using our mail budget for personal mail, I would let their boss know. A) that boss would know the employee’s situation better than I; B) that boss is wiser, kinder, and a better communicator than I; and C) the boss would have to correct the postage budget or all hell will rain down from the finance department. Also, like I said, everyone knew that you could not use government funds for personal anything. I’d want to give the boss a heads-up that the employee missed the memo. In my workplace, the coworker’s behavior would be unacceptable. But I know my workplace situation well and I hope the OP does too.

    4. Juicebox Hero*

      Thank you, Duinath. I don’t think any of this was handled well by anyone (LW should have talked to the coworker first, the boss went overboard with the written warning, and was a total ass for naming LW) at any level.

      That so many people are saying “mind your own beeswax” doesn’t really surprise me, but all the comments implying that LW somehow DESERVES the coworker’s abuse, and deserves to be shunned and distrusted by the rest of the office are yikes. Whether you approve of LW’s actions or not, it was the coworker who was doing something against the rules, whether they did it once or every day for 10 years. Reactions like this are why people are afraid to be whistleblowers when something really bad happens. Don’t rock the boat. You should have kept your mouth shut. It’s your own fault.

      Businesses cost money to run. Tiny little leaks in the money bucket – a little bit for postage here, a few stolen office supplies there, some cleaning supplies swiped there – have to be made up by the business and that means money that can’t go to raises, perks, benefits, and other stuff that people actually want.

    5. MEHSquared*

      I agree. I was surprised and dismayed by how many people called it tattling and or snitching, even after there was a blue note posted about thinknig about the spectrum of environments in which this might be happening and not just the best-case scenario.

      I agree that maybe the OP could have talked to their coworker first or not brought it up if that was viable in their workplace, but the vitriol they are getting is outsized.

      Also, many people are glossing over the fact that the boss decided to go hard on the punishment and calling out OP, which just made the situation worse. It’s disheartening that so many people think OP is the worst person in this siuation.

    6. HalJordan*

      Agreed, people keep saying that OP intentionally “messed with” or “risked” the letter-sender’s paycheck, as though OP jumped up and down going “you must formally discipline them now, mwhahahaha!” Honestly, in light of the intensity of both the boss’s response and the coworker’s, I’m as inclined to believe that this wasn’t the first time that coworker has flouted rules they conveniently “didn’t know about” at the organization’s expense.

      And there a number of comments saying in essence “well, MY workplace (gov’t) wouldn’t allow it, but since you said where you work (no? what?) and you don’t work for gov’t anywhere (do we know this?) and it was their own mail that they stamped themself (no, they didn’t) and the letter sender can’t possibly be in a role or position that is held to a higher standard than a confused intern (citation needed): you are a terrible person”

      There’s a lack of details either way in this letter and the comment section has decided to interpret every open question to the OP’s detriment, to the point of some fairly personal name-calling. It’s surprisingly and unpleasantly heated.

  50. Sister George Michael*

    A staffer in my office, Roderick, joined the management team about a month ago. I co-supervise several people with him. I noticed that he immediately informs our Big Boss about any mistakes or issues with a staffer, and then the BB comes down on the staffer and (if I co-supervise the staffer) on me. Note that we supervise very capable professionals. It’s so bizarre to me. I want my supervisees to blossom; I see my role as protecting them from management, particularly if what they did was minor/does not affect clients. I was very much raised in a ‘snitches get stitches’ background, so I’m baffled by him. Also, I sense that, instead of thinking ‘Sister George is managing her team without needing my help,’ the BB is instead thinking ‘why isn’t Sister George bringing me these issues? Something is wrong with Sister George’s management.’ Of course, unlike OP’s co-worker, I don’t tell anyone in my office not to trust Roderick, I’ve just made a mental note for myself. For this letter, I think either OP’s office is full of bees or OP should think about why they would call out a co-worker like that.

    1. Czhorat*

      There’s a balance here; if your staffers are making errors it’s absolutely your role to deal with them and, depending on the rate of errors, coach them to do better. Escalation to their grandboss is good for nobody – your boss should have better things to do with his time as well and should respond with “Did you bring this to Sister George?”.

      Overall, I prefer workplaces in which everyone acts as if they’re on the same team.

    2. Esmae*

      I wonder if he’s coming from a “report it to the boss immediately or get in trouble for knowing about it and not reporting it” work culture before this. I’ve definitely worked in environments like that, and it’s amazing how long it stays with you. (Or he could just be a petty jerk!)

  51. NotMyCircusNotMyMonkeys*

    I certainly don’t blame the angry employee. Doing this absolutely burned a great deal of trust and professional capital. This also seems very much a “tattle-tale” sort of thing to do. Honestly, if an employee of mine came to me to tattle on another employee doing something so trivial? It would reflect much worse on the tattling employee than on the person sending out an occasional personal mail. Certainly, the tattler’s judgment would look suspect.

    It feels petty, silly and inappropriate, and the other employee’s anger and distrust is fully justified. Now, as others have mentioned, the boss did a bad job by calling you out as the tattler, but really…why on earth would a rational, adult person report this to a bass and not directly mention it to a coworker? This is the sort of mistake that can take a very long time to recover from…and goodness help when the tettler makes ANY sort of mistake. Because now, half the office has been incentivized to report him/her.

    1. BellyButton*

      “By tattling on your friends, you’re just telling them that you’re a tattletale. Now is that the tale you want to tell? ” ~ Mike Brady, The Brady Bunch Movie

  52. CTA*

    More details needed. The LW makes it sound like it’s a small office. If that’s true, then maybe the “mail service” includes a person (like an office assistant) who takes the mail to the post office. I wonder if it’s also an issue of having others (like an office assistant) process/take mail to the post when that mail isn’t for business needs.

    I once worked at an office where the Executive Assistant had to periodically send email reminders and tell people to not leave mail on her desk because it wasn’t here job to take mail to the post office for others. I have no idea who would make that assumption about office services. Maybe folks just assumed because they saw outgoing mail on her desk. But it’s one thing if her boss asked her to take something to the post. It’s another thing to just assume you can add something to outgoing mail.

  53. PotsPansTeapots*

    Small offices can be SO toxic and this sounds like one of them. I suspect there’s a lot more going on.

    1. RVA Cat*

      They’re like faaaaamily….with grown adults acting like child siblings getting each other in trouble.

  54. Khatul Madame*

    The coworker could have been using company mail service to mail packages, for example returning online purchases. In this case the costs are more than a couple dollars (and likely to be discovered in an audit). But the LW should still have talked to the coworker first.
    IMO the manager telling the coworker who’d ratted them out is the worst in this situation. Because the manager should know better.

  55. Kara*

    Given the OPs reaction to the personal email and the way they write about their co-worker, I’m going to take their claims about what co-worker is now saying about them with a grain of salt.

    OP is still being awful about co-worker in this email. OP is saying that co-worker “claims” that they didn’t know mail wasn’t ok since printing was – as though OP believes co-worker fully knew and is lying.

    It makes me wonder if co-worker is simply responding to people who ask about this, maybe rolling their eyes and saying something like “don’t break any rules in front of OP, even ones you don’t know about becuase OP won’t come to you first – they’ll run straight to Boss” or something similar. OP is turning that into “they’re telling everyone I’m out to get them”.

    But quite frankly, I wouldn’t trust OP either and I would be warning people about them as well if it were me.

  56. MuseumChick*

    OP, I’m sorry but this feels like if you reported someone for taking some post-it notes or pens home. Technically, yes, it is not something employees are supposed to do. But it is so, so, so low stakes that reporting it the boss is a very disproportionate reaction. Unless there is a key information you haven’t mentioned in your letter I can understand why your co-worker is so annoyed with you.

      1. Leenie*

        I think it’s a matter of keeping things in proportion. I don’t think taking a pen or a partially used post it pad once in a while really registers as theft. That sounds like a small matter of convenience or even absent mindedness. But I think taking unopened boxes of supplies instead of doing your own shopping rises to a different level.

        1. STG*

          So theft is okay in the name of convenience?

          Absent mindedness…sure. Accidents happen.

          Intentionally stealing from your company? Not so much.

          1. Leenie*

            A pen? Sure. It’s fine. The world isn’t that rigid. No one in a healthy, solvent environment cares about the “loss” of a normal pen. It’s within the normal amount of give and take in a workplace.

              1. Leenie*

                I wouldn’t, but it would be a complete waste of their time, and they would think I was banana crackers to even ask. I work for a company that employs a few thousand people and have 15 people reporting to me. If anyone thought the discussion of a pen was worth my time, I would be shocked. If anyone thought the discussion of a pen was worth the CEO’s time, I’d expect that they’d be out the door before too long. It’s a poor use of resources and unworthy of discussion or consideration. Again, if someone is taking boxes of supplies, that’s different. Still wouldn’t take it to the CEO, but it would need to be addressed at an appropriate level. Incidental pen taking is a ridiculous thing to be worried about.

              2. Kay*

                If you came to me with this as my employee, I would seriously question your judgement, among other things.

          2. Kara*

            I’ve never worked in an office where taking a pen or a post it note home was considered “theft”.
            You seem to be rules-lawyering things so that you can be holier than thou about calling out “theft”. Are you the OP?

        2. MuseumChick*

          Exactly Leenie. I’m not taking about walking into the supply closet and taking an entire box of pens. I’m taking about as you say a half used post it pad kind of thing. I truly doubt there is anyone who can honestly say they’ve never taking a few pens from work home in their life.

          1. Leenie*

            Apparently the person who I’m discussing this with doesn’t think there’s a scale to this kind of thing. All taking of anything is stealing (although I think a lot of us are commenting on this during work time, and that takes significantly more resources than a pen). This black and white, punitive stance is strange to me.

      2. Lucy*

        I’m all for office supply theft. My favourite thing in the world. I can’t think of a greater thrill than walking into my office, head held high, and walking out again, shamelessly with my arms piled high with so-thin-they’re-transparent post-its, biros that squeak and feel like you’re writing on sandpaper, and slightly broken staplers. I’m currently papering the walls of my bathroom with office post-its, actually! It’s super creative.

        What a joy.

      3. Kay*

        In my company what you call theft is run of the mill company perks. What I would consider theft is wasting your salary to police the office supply usage of others without prior authorization. We have budgets for that, and unless those budgets are outside what I consider acceptable numbers, it is the cost of doing business that I will happily pay.

  57. Scott*

    TBH, I’m a little surprised AAM answered this letter publicly without getting further information from the LW. As has been pointed out several times, a “a few personal mail items on their desk” is highly subjective and we don’t know if they were simple letter envelopes or large packages (I assume the former). The part about “It was apparent to me and later confirmed that they were using our office’s mailing service to send personal mail” leaves unanswered the question of who was paying for the postage. I think the answers to both of those things would better put the LW’s question into perspective.

    1. HonorBox*

      Great points. I found myself wondering if the policy that was violated was some prohibition against using the postage machine for personal use at all, period, end of story OR the coworker was using the postage machine as permitted and not reimbursing the company. And what does “a few personal mail items” mean? There’s a lot of context that is missing and it seems like the reaction from management is rather outsized if it is truly a few (3-4) letters. Not so outsized if it is a few, several times a week. And even less so if it is eBay fulfillment packages.

      You’re right. There’s a lot missing and it is really hard to know how right/wrong LW was in reporting something.

      1. anecdata*

        There’s a comment from the LW clarifying that it was several large manila envelopes with ~$30 worth of office paid postage.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      Eh, I think the answer stands either way.

      Coworker had a few letters, paid for their own stamps? In most cases, the letter-writer should have talked to the coworker directly before (or perhaps instead of) talking to the boss. Coworker’s reaction to learning that the letter-writer went to the boss is not OK.

      Coworker had a few large packages, and the company paid for the postage? In most cases, the letter-writer should have talked to the coworker before talking to the boss. Coworker’s reaction to learning that the letter-writer went to the boss is not OK.

      1. Scott*

        That’s fair, and you’re probably right. I suppose I was looking for all of the facts and any mitigating circumstances, but we rarely get those in posts here anyway.

  58. Raw Cookie Dough*

    OP, a little flexibility makes life easier for everyone. Think back to every time someone didn’t make a big deal out of one of your minor infractions. This would have been a nice time to pay it forward.

  59. Nameless*

    I was very much expecting this to be “he ran several hundred wedding invitations through our postage meter,” or something similar. Maybe the company uses a courier to pick up a mix of items (like USPS + FedEx & UPS packages) and they charge by the item? I could see where that’s a problem. Otherwise? I don’t get it.

    (Okay well, I do get it, some employers get weird & rigid about the idea that an employee might have to attend to a personal thing while at work, which is banana pants & ignores that your employees are humans who might have to interact with other businesses, during business hours.)

    1. Lucy*

      Ahahaha on this note, my friend’s now-husband tried to save money on their wedding by buying some super cheap “bargain stamps” he found online to post their invitations. All the weddings guests were doing so well at keeping it to themselves too, until his cousin broke it to him that we’d all had to pay £2.50 for the privilege of being invited. My friend was… Displeased at this piece of economy.

      Point being, I can totally see someone doing this! (But yeah, guys, don’t try it. Apparently wedding invitation economy just ends in tears!)

  60. ecnaseener*

    Very odd. It’s hard to know how to interpret LW’s actions, because a reasonable person wouldn’t expect anyone to get formally disciplined for this. So I can easily imagine a scenario where LW mentioned this offhand to the boss to check whether it was okay (maybe wondering if they could send their own mail), expecting that if it wasn’t okay the boss would treat it like the minor issue it is. But on the flip side, this is probably not the first outsized reaction from the boss, so I can also imagine a scenario where LW knew perfectly well they were “getting the coworker in trouble.”

  61. Rachel*

    Also, it was wrong of the manager to announce that you were the one that told him! They essentially created the situation you find yourself in. Plus others are less likely to speak up about problems if they’re going to be ‘outed’ this way.

  62. OOF*

    In a workforce where employers routinely “steal” from employees when it comes to time (little vacation time, unpaid overtime, weekend work as needed, inventory, etc.), I see the occasional $1.25 for posting a letter as NBD. Telling a boss on an employee without even checking with them first is boot-licker territory to me. Not sure what the whole picture is, of course, but I would 0% trust an employee who tattles for little things, although I would also not be onboard harassing them about it, either. That is workplace harassment. This feels like a mountain was made out of a molehill but now the molehill isn’t so little anymore.

  63. Pricilla Queen of WFH*

    I actually disagree with Allison here for once.
    Whether the employee was just slipping in a few letters or using all company resources possible to send personal mail, it is super not your business and I would be furious too.

    If you aren’t managing this person and aren’t responsible for their actions (or for the supplies or budget or whatever) then this action directly says to me I’m a busybody and I care more about everyone following the rules of a company than I do about people. It’s just such a petty thing to do in my mind. We all use office supplies and money regularly for a myriad of things, and calling someone out like this just reeks of pick me office behavior.

    1. Part time lab tech*

      “I care more about everyone following the rules of a company than I do about people.”
      This here is I think why there are such strong opinions on both sides. I personally think that rules, matter. Do I care about a pen or a card or a few minutes here and there? Not really. That little bit of flexibility smooths relationships if it goes both ways.
      I also understand why CW was uncomfortable enough with 8 Manila envelopes at $30 to report it because for me that’s on the petty border. She checked CW was going to charge it to the company. To me that’s like taking money from petty cash. My husband would disagree, even though he earns enough to pay for his own postage.
      I am not saying CW would take anything bigger, he’s probably in the percentage that wouldn’t take cash or sell company property online. He just considers postage and stationary no big deal.
      The problem with calling it tattling is that that same attitude rolls up to bigger things like being a crap surgeon (Patel in Qld) or touchy nurse or teacher who turns out to be a serial abuser (Tas). In these cases, people’s flag raising was seen as snitching and the perpetrators got away with it for years, even though they were known to cross boundaries in smaller ways that other people didn’t. Boundary testing is absolutely something that people who are later charged with bigger crimes do.
      Often fraudsters are finally caught because of small discrepancies.

      1. Lizard the Second*

        I totally agree with you! All the commenters talking about “tattling” and “snitching” just encourages a culture of coverups and turning a blind eye.

        And for me personally, $30 is a significant enough amount for someone to take, that I would feel like I was condoning the behaviour if I knew about it and said nothing.

  64. merula*

    As Alison noted in an earlier reply, there’s a spectrum of things that fall within “using our office’s mailing service to send personal mail”, from “dropping a pre-stamped letter in the outgoing mailbox that no one touches but USPS once a month” to “using company postage on letters and packages daily, incurring processing work by company employees”.

    Occam’s Razor, which is more likely?
    -The incident was on the “occasional pre-stamped letter” end of the spectrum, and (1) was noticed by a passing co-worker and (2) taken seriously enough by the Boss to result in formal discipline and (3) the mailer is completely justified in continued anger and accusations against the “narc”.
    -The incident was actually closer to the “frequent misuse of company resources” end of the spectrum, which is why it was (1) noticeable to a coworker and (2) taken seriously by the boss in the form of formal discipline, and (3) a person who is already willing to flout office norms has a bizarre and outsized reaction to being called on it.

    Either is technically possible, but I know where my money would be.

    1. Lucy*

      It’s just… Who would write a whole letter admitting to telling the boss, but then only vaguely say, “Mail”, and not, “unstamped packages”? Taking that into account, and knowing how most people defend their actions with any context they can find, swings the pendulum the other way for me.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Who would write a whole letter admitting to telling the boss, but then only vaguely say, “Mail”, and not, “unstamped packages”?

        Possibly someone who wants to paint themselves in the best light, as you mention. But it could also be:

        – someone whose first language isn’t English
        – someone who saw both packages and letters and wrote “mail items” to keep the letter shorter
        – someone who wrote “mail items” to anonymize the situation a bit (instead of “3 letter-sized envelopes” or “one 10in x 10in x 4in box and one 12in x 12in x 12in box” or whatever the nitty-gritty details of the situation actually were)

        1. Myrin*

          I would add “people who don’t put as much thought into a letter written to an internet advice columnist as they would into writing a possible Pulitzer-winning report”.

          1. Lucy*

            Ok, not disagreeing that there are, of course, a few possible reasons for this. In fact, I was more defending my knee jerk response than saying mine was the only one (and I guess I was wrong anyway!). But also, someone *not* putting effort into justifying their actions in a letter they hope will be made public on the internet? You have to admit, it’s a bit odd. I think most people asking for anonymous online judgement probably parse their words *at least* as carefully as a Pulitzer winner.

            Is this a humanities/lit/sociology oriented thing? Like… Why wouldn’t you?

            1. HalJordan*

              Do people hope for publicity, or for Alison’s perspective? I can’t imagine the OP wants to see this public comment section ever again, for one, and I’m losing my taste for it too.

              There are a ton of reasons not to list every factor that aren’t simply “dumb STEM brain”, including that the letter writers most likely have lives that do not revolve around the questions they are asking and may not have hours to spare in careful parsing. Two other reasons include language barriers (as mentioned above) and the evidently naive belief that people will follow the site rules and take the letter writers at their word without nitpicking, rather than leaping to the worst possible interpretation.

              Even “humanities/lit/sociology-oriented” types (congratulations!) can benefit from extending grace.

              1. Lucy*

                “Dumb STEM brain” is not even close to what I was going for so maybe I don’t parse my words as carefully as I think! I think people who spent years focusing to a very large degree on the nuance of their written communication are more likely to continue to do so automatically than those who didn’t. STEM students/adults have my utmost respect – I think the intellectual focus is different but not lesser.

                In my experience the world is more likely to celebrate STEM than the humanities. I didn’t think I needed to be all that careful to emphasise my respect for STEM because it seems to be generally respected by all. I’m really surprised by this response so I guess I’ll be more careful in future – but differently specialties do foster different skills – I think that was a fair point.

                1. Lucy*

                  P.S. In terms of extending grace… Could you have extended some to me? I’ve reread my comment twice now and don’t see any disparaging of STEM at any point. I think my point was that it’s not really work to me, to think about how I am presenting myself in writing, because it comes automatically after so many years. Maybe I’m not always perfect at it, but even if I get it wrong, it’s always in my mind, not an afterthought or an extra step. Obviously OP isn’t the same, but I really asked that last question to clarify if it was different for others. It is – ok, so question answered. But I don’t think you needed to jump down my throat about it either.

            2. Myrin*

              I mean. I’m a german philologist/germanist (never know how to say that in English so it doesn’t sound awkward) and have been told on multiple occasions by professors that I have the best reading comprehension and literary analytic skills they’ve ever encountered so I get where you’re coming from in general, but even I don’t parse my words on here as carefully as when I’m writing a publication for my job.
              You ask “Why wouldn’t you?” to which I answer “Well, why would you?”.

              Especially if one isn’t a regular AAM reader or Very Online in general, it probably wouldn’t occur to someone who isn’t naturally inclined to it to justify their actions to a satisfactory-for-a-comment-section degree; nevermind that some people simply don’t express themselves this way.

              That just in additon to HalJordan’s excellent comment, which I fully agree with.

  65. Nat20*

    I feel like if you see a coworker doing something that’s technically against company policy you should ask yourself:

    Is it a serious violation?
    Could it impact the person’s or someone else’s job or a customer’s experience if it’s not addressed?
    Is it (or could it) causing the business harm, or costing it major time, money, or resources?
    Is this impacting me? Is it my responsibility to address?

    If the answer to all of these is no – which it kinda seems like is the case here, though some more context is needed – then it’s not a big deal and it’s none of your business. Why get coworkers in trouble over harmless, incredibly minor things that have no impact on you or the business, just for the sake of technicality?

    I agree with other commenters that there’s some important context missing here about whether the person was sending entire packages or not paying for their own postage, but even if that’s the case I just think this is so overblown, both by reporting it straight to the boss and the boss’s reaction. It’s like reporting & formally reprimanding someone for stealing a pen, or leaving a spill in the microwave, or clocking out 2 minutes early on Fridays. I think the coworker probably has good reason to be annoyed.

  66. Kay*

    Your coworker probably shouldn’t keep bringing it up, but I would also feel that you can’t be trusted if I were them. You escalated something so ridiculously minor, and it led to a formal reprimand! It would be hard not to feel like you were watching everyone and tattling to the boss for every little thing. I’d be worried that you’d be reporting anyone who took 31 minutes for lunch instead of 30 rather than just…minding your own business. Things like this just hurt you in the long run. If no one wants to work with you, it’ll affect you in many ways that you’re likely not seeing at the moment.

  67. Leenie*

    Ugh. After being really firm in the idea that “tattling” isn’t an appropriate word to describe adults addressing issues at work, and should be left in elementary school where it belongs, I hate that my gut reaction to this letter is, “Stop tattling, LW!”

    But really, with the information provided, this feels like a minor issue that, if it needed to be addressed at all, should have been addressed directly. I don’t think LW’s coworker is handling his response well at all. But if I were him, between the LW’s inclination to inform on me, and what appears to be an outsized, formal response from management, I might be job searching by now.

  68. OP*


    I am the original question asker.

    This is not something that happens regularly (2nd time I have seen them mail personal items in 2 years) BUT this was not already stamped mail. It was mail that resulted in a $30 charge from our mailing service to deliver (I have access to this info without needing to snoop).

    As far as past behaviour of being out to get people, as co-worker says, the only prior incident was when this co-worker put a link in our newsletter to a book written by a family member of theirs. I told our boss that I thought this was inappropriate, but since the product was related to the focus of that section in the newsletter (biographies of local community leaders) they let it slide.

    1. Dawn*

      Just out of curiosity, why did this cost so much to deliver? Were these large parcels or something that’s not otherwise clear from your post?

        1. Dawn*

          Ok so I know it’s not but part of me now really wants this to be part of an extremely ill-thought-out money laundering operation.

    2. NotARealManager*

      I work in the accounting dept and am responsible for payroll. So when I see charges like this happen, I do have to report them. Either the employee just pays it back or we let it slide (depending on what it ways). No one is formally disciplined for it, though they might get reminders from their boss/accounting not to do it.

      If your role is in a similar capacity to mine then I understand why you brought it up. If it’s not…I’d let people responsible for those decisions make them.

      And if your boss named you in the complaint regarding link to the family and the postal charges they’re being a bad boss and it’s not surprising the co-worker thinks you have it out for them.

    3. Raw Cookie Dough*

      OP, I’m confused. Why did you omit the charge amount in your original question? A $30 postage fee is vastly different than a $.60 stamp. That’s the difference between using the printer for personal reasons, and taking home an entire cartridge of ink.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I can tell you from a decade-plus of writing this column that it’s really hard for people to know what details will be important to include and which will be extraneous. When you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t realize all the ways you’re speaking in shorthand to someone outside of it.

        1. Heffalump*

          Yep, I’ve experienced a number of situations where I was recounting an incident to a third person who wasn’t there when it happened. Several minutes in, I mentioned something in passing, not because I thought it was particularly relevant, and the person I was speaking to said, “You didn’t tell me that! That makes a big difference!”

        2. Dawn*

          I regret to inform you it’s been almost two decades now (I, too, am presently experiencing middle age for the first time.)

      2. Myrin*

        In addition to what Alison said, OP also didn’t say it wasn’t a 30 dollar fee. People simply came up with the most uncharitable read of the situation for reasons even though something on the other end of the spectrum was just as likely (I would personally argue “more likely”, even, but I guess that depends on your views on probability).

        1. Emily*

          Myrin: Exactly! Some commenters seem really intent on maligning this OP and jumped to the conclusion that painted the co-worker in the best light and OP in the worst light. $30.00 is significant.

        2. Irish Teacher.*

          Yeah, I assumed it was…maybe not $30, but at least $5 or $10 worth, partly because the lowest envelope cost here is €1.40 (apparently equal to $1.50 in dollars, so even three or four of them would be $4-$6) and until somebody replied mention 60 cents, I didn’t consider that the cost might be so much less in the US, but also because I assumed there would hardly be this much fuss over a couple of dollars. Plus in today’s world, I tend to assume parcels, as people don’t write letter much now.

          $30 seems like neither an exceptionally low or exceptionally high amount. If it were only $2 or $3 or if it were hundreds of dollars, I would think it worthy of mention, but this seems like an amount that would be a reasonable guess for a number of items.

    4. Leenie*

      Thanks for the clarification! $30 definitely seems like enough to address, even if it was only a couple of times over the years. But it does sound like both your read on things and the atmosphere that you work in are on the weirdly punitive side. Even your phrasing of “they let it slide” regarding the link sounds like your expectation of consequences may have been disproportionate.

      If I were you, I would have mentioned to the coworker that the $30 charge wasn’t something that the company would cover, and asked them to address that with the boss, if I wasn’t empowered to request reimbursement. I really can see how the two incidents with this coworker over the years feels like they’re being watched or targeted by you – even though I agree that the use of resources and their subsequent behavior toward you have been inappropriate. I also think it sounds like your boss has been throwing you under the bus with your coworkers, so maybe take that into consideration the next time you’re debating whether you should loop them in on something.

      I just want to close by noting that there are many workplaces where there’s room for error, misunderstandings, and just working though things. Not everyplace has a system of formal discipline on the first infraction, or a boss who will tell employees who informed on them when an infraction is committed. It’s nice to be at a place where there’s more breathing room.

      I’m sorry that the coworker is being a jerk to you now. It’s out of line. But you’re both working within a system that doesn’t seem to be encouraging goodwill among employees.

      1. GythaOgden*

        Fraud is generally one of those times when a slippery slope argument applies, though. It needs to be stopped with a clear message that it’s unacceptable. People who don’t get reprimanded for obvious fraud are the ones most likely to feel they got away with it and begin escalating.

        Honestly I work in a similar place and have been the post-person. No-one tried slipping £30 worth of personal postage past me, but someone who was always badgering me to do it for them would have had me give a heads-up to their manager.

        1. Leenie*

          He did it openly with no badgering involved. So I still think a heads up that he needs to pay would have been the right first step. And then escalation if he didn’t handle it himself. I’m not saying this was appropriate for him to do, without clearance. But it’s not like he was trying to hide it, so fraud might be a stretch. I think his reaction, post discipline, speaks really poorly of the coworker. I also think it’s outrageous that the manager told the coworker that the LW had reported him. It just sounds like a negative, adversarial atmosphere.

    5. Teacher on a Monday*

      I see the difference but it still feels snitchy…
      The coworker shouldn’t be dragging you like is happening -that is out of line, as is the boss’s decision to name you in the reprimand.
      It does seems off that you are keeping track of this particular coworker. If you are only worried about what this one coworker is doing and not everyone else you might want to check in with yourself about why and consider if this coworker is a minority. You might also want to check in with yourself if you are keeping track of everyone this way if it is not your job to do so.

      1. Dawn*

        I know that this is me extrapolating a lot and I could be way off-base, but looking at it from the outside, I might take all of this together as an indication that this could be a toxic workplace that’s warped the OP’s sense of norms to some extent. Contained in this one short letter seems to be an awful lot of backbiting and blaming.

        1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

          This is what I am getting. If it was just the OP acting like these were MAJOR infractions, then I would think “Ok, this is THAT guy”, but the boss both inflicting a VERY punitive punishment AND throwing the OP under the bus (because that is what is happening, let’s not kid ourselves, the boss wants the “blame” for this on the OP, not on the party doing the ACTUAL disciplining). This sounds like a place where there is a constantly moving “screw-up”/”scapegoat” hot potato and where the surest way to stay “in good” is to point out where everyone else is “messing up.” Not a healthy dynamic and could absolutely be warping the OP’s thinking to the point they are not understanding why their co-workers are never going to trust them again because they tried to get their co-worker sacked over $30.

    6. Ele4phant*

      Eh still think this could’ve been handled by a direct “heads up it’s not cool here to use company postage” instead of going straight to reporting it.

      And your boss’s reaction also strikes me as disproportional for a first event.

      Sure 30 dollars is a lot more than 66 cents, but in the grand scheme of thing it’s not much to the business’s stability. An initial fyi for the first offense would’ve sufficed.

      I think you are working in an overly toxic and punitive environment and you’ve lost sight of what a normal baseline looks like.

    7. Observer*

      This is not something that happens regularly (2nd time I have seen them mail personal items in 2 years)

      So even with the $30 charge you mention, a far bit of over-reaction all around. And given that this is the second time in 2 years, this is not someone who regularly abuses the system. While I still don’t think that you really needed to follow up on it, and I’m wondering why you felt the need to do so, I can see the other side.

      What I don’t see is why you would go to the boss without speaking to the person first, though.

      Also, given that it’s the second time that you’ve gone to your boss about him, it’s easy to see why he thinks you have it out for him. And in fact, it does kind of sound that way, even though I’ll take your word for it that you don’t.

      Having said that, your description of your last “report” to your boss sounds like you thought that he *should* be penalized. Which comes off as kind of odd and punitive to me.

      More importantly, your workplace sounds like there is a serious level of dysfunction. A formal reprimand with a meeting over something like this is a lot, given that you say that it’s not a common occurrence and that he does good work over-all. And why on earth would the boss have told him who reported it? Unless this is actually part of your job, it’s not something that should have come up.

    8. MuseumChick*

      Oh wow. Yeah that changes my opinion on this a lot. In your letter it sounded like at most a couple of letters where a standard stamp was all that was needed. I do think the right course of action here would have been to speak to the coworker first but I can understand why you did what you did.

      1. I Have RBF*

        Yeah, I probably would have asked the coworker to reimburse the company, rather than just go running to their boss.

    9. Ahnon4Thisss*

      I can understand addressing the $30 charge. That is too much of a company resource to use, and should be addressed.

      That being said, I can kind of see where this person is coming from if this isn’t your first incident with them, especially when the book incident seems very small pennies if it was relevant to the newsletter. I’m guessing your boss is telling this coworker that you brought it up, which is not good.

      I agree with Teacher on a Monday that it sounds like you may be tracking your coworker’s moves to look for wrongdoing even if you were right in this instance. Doing this can create more ill will in an environment that already sounds kind of iffy toxicity wise. Honestly, learning to let go of the little things like the book issue may help navigate this workplace.

      Best of luck :)

      1. ABC*

        That being said, I can kind of see where this person is coming from if this isn’t your first incident with them

        Agreed. I think the LW sees the newsletter incident and the mail incident as totally separate, coincidental encounters, and she never considered that the coworker would see them as part of a targeted pattern. At this point, I think it would be best for everyone involved if the LW just kept her head down and tried to work through the bad energy in this office (or look for a new job, if it’s that bad).

    10. sparkle emoji*

      Thanks for the additional context. I still think a conversation with the coworker should have been the first move. If they continue doing it after that it makes sense to talk with a boss, but the heads-up could have at least helped so the coworker wouldn’t feel blindsided.

    11. Bunny Lake Is Found*

      OP, I ask a serious question: Are you monitoring your co-worker for “violations” of policy?

      I ask because I am hyper observant (clinically so) but I couldn’t say that a co-worker I sat near sent out personal mail 2x in 2 years with accuracy. Beyond that, you say you weren’t snooping on the mailing charges, but unless your job was to check those charges, I don’t see how this wasn’t some level of “investigation.” And the link required that you follow the link and research who your co-worker was related to. See it from your co-worker’s position, this feels like a lot of leg work for things that amount to minor infractions. Add to that the fact you went straight to the boss about these incidents and seem less than thrilled that they “let slide” something so minor as to merit a simple “yeah, that isn’t something that is OK to do” and it does look a little extra.

      I legitimately am wondering if you, even on a subconscious level, find this co-worker to be competent but somehow also untrustworthy and thus needing additional checks and balances on their actions. And the reason for this could be wholly unjustified (like it turns out they look like someone you used to know who was a really dodgy character) or remarkably prescient (like they are actually skirting way more serious rules and you are somehow picking up on that in how cavelier they are in these low stakes circumstances). This doesn’t have to mean you are “out to get them”, it can mean somehow you are more attuned to any malfeasance, on any scale, on their part.

      The point is, I would really interrogate yourself on how you uncovered two small infractions regarding one co-worker, reported them both to a higher authority desiring for your co-worker to experience negative repercussions, and yet feel your colleagues are unjustified in their assessment that you are likely to report any minor infraction of theirs to an authority.

    12. EA*

      The detail about the book in the newsletter makes me understand why the person feels targeted by the LW. And the “second time in two years.” And that this isn’t even someone on the LW’s close team. I’d definitely feel monitored if I were the Mailer.

    13. Lucy*

      This is so strange – posting that much stuff at work, out in the open, in front of everyone is bizarre to me. Did your coworker have reason to believe that this *much* of a charge to the business would be normal? I ask this because I have absolutely been on the side of, “for heaven’s sake, don’t be so petty” up until now, but even with that stance, and the relaxed nature of my workplace, this amount of mail/money seems to be self-evidently unreasonable to me, without prior permission.

      However, again, not everyone is me. I think the fact that he had all this post out on his desk, and posted it where you could see, probably suggests that he really did think it was allowed. I don’t see how. But surely, if you thought it wasn’t, you’d try to hide it?

      I don’t think you should have reported him. I’d probably have raised my eyebrows a bit. I might have said something in the moment like, “woah, what did you do to get [boss] to let you post all that here?!” (I wouldn’t be trying to be passive aggressive, I tend to assume if someone’s doing something like this, it’s probably allowed for some reason.) Fundamentally, you were technically in the right – just as someone who calls the police on a shoplifter is technically right, according to the letter of the law. But you don’t know their life, and this action isn’t hurting you (or, realistically, anyone really).

      I’m trying to think how I would feel if I was your colleague (and don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t be bullying or being vicious to you about it). But I think I’d be ashamed, embarrassed, I’d feel monitored and untrusted and as though people didn’t like me, even. All of which is bad enough if he was trying to pull a fast one – but imagine that he truly didn’t know – it would feel horrible.

      Does it justify his name calling, or being unkind? No. But it might be worth asking yourself what you got out of telling your boss. Was it so your boss would look more favourably on you? Did you dislike your colleague and want him to get into trouble? Is this kind of observation and reportage encouraged by your company more generally? Do you generally struggle to tell the difference between “wrong” (against the rules) and “wrong” (hurts someone unnecessarily)? Or, if not to tell the difference, to perceive that there’s a difference of degree?

      I’m asking all these questions because from the fact you sent the letter, and the question you ask, it sounds like there might be some kind of confusion or values dissonance here. We’re all talking about toxic workplaces with employees pitted against each other, but your coworker seems shocked that this happened – so it can’t be too regular an occurrence.
      Do you understand why your colleague is upset? (I don’t mean do you understand the poor behaviour – you don’t have to rationalise that. Just, do you understand the emotion behind it?)

      What do you think motivated you, here?

      1. Leenie*

        It’s funny. We get a really good deal on Fed Ex, and an old boss told me that, unless it looked like someone was running a side business using our Fed Ex account, not to worry about personal use. That wasn’t insubstantial on a per shipment basis, but all told, it wasn’t very much money to the company. It came up because our office manager had been chasing down reimbursement checks from employees, having to log those, and Fed Ex them to our headquarters for deposit. Between her time and the Fed Ex costs for forwarding the checks, the reimbursements weren’t really worth it. So I approached my boss about the Office Manager’s frustration. And instead of shutting down that perk, which wasn’t being abused or used extensively by any one person, he just decided our Cost Center could eat that incidental cost. That actually informed my approach to managing later on. My first inclination is to look at the real cost/benefit of anything like that, and normally, I’ll decide not to sweat the small stuff.

        So, I guess, different places are different. I’d still ask about a larger shipment before I sent anything personal myself, in a new environment. But if the coworker worked someplace like my office previously, and already sent something years ago at his current job without any repercussions, I can see it not seeming too outrageous to him.

        I think there are missteps from everyone involved here. But my biggest side eye is for the boss, who seems to stir up conflict between his employees with his approach.

        1. Lucy*

          That’s fair! I think my concern about the $30 is more about my own finances than my work’s. I’ve sort of switched from, “oh, that’s pennies – it means nothing” to, “oh, that would be a pretty decent saving to me, and could be a question of taking advantage, rather than just convenience!”.
          But if coworker came from an environment like you describe, he could certainly have thought it was fine! And I agree about the cost-benefit decision making too – that’s why I’m so happy in my current job – I think my managers do that!

          Agree completely about the manager. That’s something I almost felt should go without saying – that’s an outrageous choice to make in a well-functioning workplace. (Unless maybe the coworker had guessed and the manager inadvertently confirmed? I can see myself doing something like that by mistake and then feeling terrible.)

    14. Lizard the Second*

      OP, you didn’t do anything wrong. $30 is a significant enough amount that I’d feel like I should ask my boss about it, instead of speaking informally with my coworker.

      I’m sorry your boss threw you under the bus by revealing your name. I’m sorry your coworker is being hostile to you for something that was their own fault. And I’m sorry so many commenters are making bad faith assumptions. You deserve better.

  69. Skippy*

    I know of someone who got fired for using her boss’s signature to FedEx an entire shipment of furniture. You work in an office and you’re tattling on someone for less than $2 worth of *stamps*? Prepare yourself to have all of your pens and office supplies stolen till the end of time.

    1. Skippy*

      OK, for $30 worth of stamps. This is still insane unless you work for a nonprofit where this person is stealing food from the mouths of starving children.

      1. Heffalump*

        $30 to mail one item is different from $30 to mail 44 letters over time. But the thing to do would have been to have a word with the coworker.

    2. Juicebox Hero*

      Doing the right thing (in a clunky sort of way, granted) means the OP DESERVES to be victimized now?

      When I worked retail, in a huge store, part of a big regional chain, we caught hell if our tills were $5 or more off. Why should OP’s employer have to eat the THEFT of $30?

  70. EA*

    Wow, nobody did the right thing here, but the real problem is the unreasonable boss. Also, I can totally see why the person thought that if you’re allowing to print a few personal items that you could also mail personal items. I bet an apology from the OP to the mail sender would go a long way.

  71. Susannah*

    It’s rare that I side with the complaining wrong-doer over the tattletale, but… yeah, I’d be inclined to steer pretty clear of LW. And I wouldn’t make it an ongoing campaign, but you bet I’d tell people at work about the person so outraged that I sent some personal mail out (either stamped, or what – costing 50 cents?) with the office mail. Yes, it’s against the rules, and yes, technically theft from the company (though I wonder ion same company is OK with workers nickel and diming the cost of using one’s own phone, or taking a call or email at home after hours). But… going straight to management and TELLING on this person? Without even going to them first and saying, oh, you know, we’re not supposed to send out our personal letters with company mail?
    That’s a level of pettiness I can’t even begin to assess.

  72. LOL ANON*

    I think that an “us-versus-them culture” — where the letter-writer’s actions would get them ostracized as a snitch — is actually the normal working culture for a lot of us, especially those closer to the blue-collar side of things. It’s definitely the culture in my company. Never in a million years would I report a coworker for something as trivial as this.

  73. NameRequired*

    This is odd. I’ve mailed letters from work before, bringing them in and dropping them in the “OUTGOING MAIL” tray, but it sounds like the OP is implying that the other colleague was using the company’s “franking” system. We had one in the county extension office I worked for years ago. They allowed the employees up to like $1 a day or a week or whatever we could mail out, I forget, it was 30 years ago. So, you couldn’t bring in your whole Christmas card stack and have them stamped and sent but if you needed to mail a letter or bill and didn’t have a stamp it was fine. So, if that’s what the colleague was doing, bringing all her mail in and using the company’s postal devices to stamp and send her mail, well, that’s not great, but more than likely she just assumed it was a privilege since it wasn’t expressly forbidden. I’d have said a quick, “Jane, if you’re mailing those letters out on the company dime, you need to know that’s not permitted,” and then let it go unless it continues. Tattle taling is a little extreme and… (man we need a better term than “Karen”) mean old lady like.

  74. Cookingcutie11*

    I don’t know, in one of my past jobs I would seldomly bring personal mail (and I’m pretty sure that forever stamps were under $.40 apiece here in the US at the time). I was severely underpaid, and didn’t think it was such a big offense. OP mentions that this offender “generally does a good job“ but what business is it of theirs to assess this person’s work abilities, then see that they had mail on their desk, verify what they did with it and then report it? Yeah that’s a jerk move. Assuming these are envelopes and not packages, of course, and thinking that a forever stamp is now $.68. Let’s say the person had five envelopes, was it really worth reporting them over? I mean, technically, they did the “right thing,” but without knowing the full circumstance, it seems really unnecessary.

  75. MAW*

    I feel like the biggest picture problem here is that the boss/manager told the Mailer who “tattled” on them (i don’t feel like the tattler actually did anything particularly wrong here, esp give that the dollar value was more than just a stamp or two according to OP’s follow up in the comments). And that the boss/manager isn’t shutting down Mailer’s complaints about OP, either through not being enough in touch to know that it’s happening or choosing not to intervene.

  76. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    VERY poor judgment on the part of that manager who identified you as having made the complaint! He’s now guaranteed that, if there’s a SERIOUS problem with an employee (stealing, destroying others’ property, etc.), no one will bring it up to him out of fear of becoming a target of the criminous employee’s anger!

  77. queen b*

    I was an intern in another country once and I used their meter to send letters back to my grandma in the United States. I thought I was sneaky, oops. This letter tells me I most certainly was not!

  78. Coverage Associate*

    I can’t even put mis delivered mail in my mail box at home. I have to find one of the big blue boxes for mailing (not in walking distance of my apartment) or take it to the post office. We used to get a lot of mis delivered mail, and I would take it to work with me (along with anything personal I had stamped) because mailboxes and post offices were walking distance from my office.

    Sometimes I would forget to drop it in a box on the way into work and would ask the admin to put it in the building’s outgoing mail when she went to the mail room. They always thought this was the smallest thing I could ask for.

    My sister works for the federal government in a rural area and the family sends her personal packages to work to save her a trip to her PO Box. She also handles incoming mail at her work, so I guess there’s no extra labor involved.

    My new office is on the 37th floor of a building with internal mail shoots. It’s the most fun thing to drop things in the mail shoot! I am sad we don’t get as much mis delivered mail anymore so I don’t get to use the shoots.

    And mail sent in the neighborhood of my office arrives 5x faster than mail sent from the suburbs, even if dropped off at the suburban post office.

    All that said, at an old job, the boss would notice a $30 increase in postage costs and go looking for an explanation. She wouldn’t fire the person who did it, but she might move the postage machine into her personal office.

  79. Allison*

    No where in this letter does the LW mention that this violated a company policy or rules. Seems like an extremely relevant detail to leave out!

  80. TMarin*

    It would be helpful to add OPs response to the original post.
    “It was about 8 Manila envelopes, each filled enough so that they were no longer flat.”
    That is a huge difference from a couple of stamped personal letters.
    — Also, we have only the coworker’s word that the discipline was Only about this incident. He may have been warned about this before. There are a lot of assumptions being made about OP without considering 1) the additional info 2)what else may have factored into the coworker being disciplined.
    — Pile-ons are just so unhelpful.

  81. TotesMaGoats*

    With the new info from the OP, the manager response now makes more sense. $30 charge for shipping is more than a few stamps. So, I can see how the manager viewed some kind of reprimand as appropriate.

    OP: Yeah, I can see why you felt the need to say something. Probably should have said something to the offender first but I get it.
    Boss: Should not have outed you. That’s very not cool at all. I’m going to assume the boss had a reason to go to reprimand the offender.
    Offender: A couple stamps is way different than $30 shipping. You messed up here big time and then doubled down on the OP. Not cool.

  82. KP*

    I really want to know what was mailed – a hippopotamus? A brick of uranium? A packet of anthrax? One of those dang chain letters promising seven years of bad luck?

    Because I’m having a hard time understanding why the boss reacted the way that they did. Their reaction only make sense to me if this employee (or the company at large) had been warned of the Very Negative Consequences of mailing a letter from work or if the employee had been mailing something illegal.

    Because, this situation feels very similar to something that on the surface looks like the same shallow “what’s the big deal” at my company. Every year, every single employee has to complete an ethics training course. It’s long. It’s tedious. It’s a pain in the ass. And it’s just one training course among the many, many refresher coures I do every year….but if I don’t do this one specifically, I could lose my bonus, lose a raise, or have my employment terminated. It is a Very Big Deal

    And if someone saw me only pretending to do the ethics training course, like just clicking through really fast, they’d be well within the company’s culture to report it. And my manager would be well within his rights to formally reprimand me.

    And I’m really wondering if the OP has a government job or works in some other highly regulated industry where there are super strict ethical rules about how/when the mail service can be used. Just like we all know at my company that that one ethics course is a Very Big Deal and you don’t violate it.

    But if it’s not that, then I think the employee was definitely mailing a hippopotamus.

  83. Idontlikemail*

    I don’t know full context here like others but have a semi-similar personal mail experience that always irked me. I was an admin for first role at my job and had to walk multiple times a day across street to another building to retrieve mail- most of it inter company hence why multiple times a day. One lady always had her personal packages mailed there. We have normal 9-5 jobs – no way she couldn’t have them sent to her house. It wasn’t until later in my career after I’d moved up did I complain on this – and to her. I said we no longer would retrieve those and instead notify her it was there to go pickup herself. But eventually her manager told her to stop anyways because it also put a burden on our person who handled the mail room due to amount of packages they see for the company. This was a waste of resources spending time even receiving these. So just food for thought on other ways personal mail can be annoying. I really don’t like tattling though so hope there is more to it than what is described in the letter!

    1. Observer*

      did I complain on this – and to her

      That’s a key difference. You had a good reason to say something, but you started with the right person. And also, you knew about because you were one of the people being directly affected by it.

    2. LJ*

      Do porch pirates not exist where you are? I always worked in the city and it’s fairly common to get (especially high value items – electronics and the like) packages at work precisely because people won’t be home during 9-5 when the delivery companies tend to deliver.

      1. Heffalump*

        I’ve heard anecdotally of immunocompromised people having their anti-rejection drugs stolen by porch pirates, which I assume is no joke. A friend of mine had a heart transplant a year and a half ago. I don’t think she’s been hit by porch pirates, but I’ve thrown out the idea to her that she might want to get a mail drop.

  84. Heffalump*

    Quite a few years ago one of the advice columnists (either Abigail Van Buren or her twin Ann Landers) got a letter from a woman saying that she was living at home as an adult, and her mother was opening her mail. The columnist advised her to get her mail at her workplace.

    A few weeks later there was a letter saying, “I own a business, and I don’t pay the mailroom to process employees’ personal mail.”

    If the columnist, an intelligent adult with years of writing an advice column under her belt, could miss this point, it would certainly be excusable for other people to miss it.

    1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

      I may be missing the point…do you mean that the advice columnist’s response to a later letter was that the business owner doesn’t pay to have the postal worker drop off an employee’s personal mail? Otherwise, I am confused at what “point” the columnist might have missed?

      1. Heffalump*

        IIRC the columnist’s response to the letter from the business owner was, in effect, “I see your point.” She missed this point earlier when she advised the woman to start receiving her personal mail at work.

        1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

          Ah, thank you! Sorry, I was straight up confused there.

          I find so much of this fascinating since the mere suggestion of prohibiting people from having things delivered to the office would have started a riot in any place I have ever worked. Only those making a lot of money (low 6 figs) could afford to live in a building where it was universally safe to have parcels delivered. It would have gotten real French Revolution real fast.

  85. JP*

    Ugh. Where I live (urban suburb of Chicago) they’ve been removing mailboxes (staffing? Vandalism? I don’t know.) Luckily I have a hybrid schedule but if employees want employees in an office/commuting they could at least take our outgoing letters.

    But maybe this office has a good reason for such a policy. Even so, unless there’s a lot more to the story, OP can expect to be disliked and avoided by co-workers anywhere they work if they escalate petty complaints to management. (And people will know exactly who it is after a while.)

  86. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    Why on earth would the OP report this?
    It wasn’t affecting the her job in any way, the coworker was in another team and the postage was such a trivial sum ($30) that it’s only a little above the usual tolerance of taking pens and notebooks home.
    The manager was very petty too, giving a formal warning instead of just telling them to stop.

    Not surprising the coworked was aggrieved, especially if the OP hadn’t warned them beforehand that it was against the rules, so he had a chance not to do it. I expect other coworkers would regard the OP with suspicion too.

  87. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    I don’t think it means a “them and us” culture if someone gets ostracised for reporting a coworker for such a trivial matter.
    It seems a spiteful report by a jobsworth type (Uk ref) that would irritate most people in the office, probably making them think the OP was spying on people looking for ways to get them into trouble.

    At any stage in my career if I had reported someone for such a trivial matter, any manager would have told me not to be so petty and probably also asked if I disliked my coworker and if I had enough work to occupy myself.

  88. lilsheba*

    I’d say you are just being a snitch for no good reason at this point. I don’t see where sending a few pieces of mail is going to cause anyone any harm. I used to buy postage at work and send mail, no biggie. Who cares really?

  89. Chip*

    I think, even with the additional info, that this doesn’t rise to the level of telling the boss. At least speak to them first before taking it there.

    I have a coworker that seems to step away from the computer an awful lot, be late to meetings, and just generally not pull their weight (we are telecommuters). But I’m not telling the boss. I am focusing on my own work. It does seem that you might have a tendency to focus on the negative when it comes to this coworker. It’s just unnecessary and has caused ill will and a lack of trust in you.

  90. Boof*

    OP, I think you’re getting a lot more flack in the comments than you deserve. I am admittedly, very conscientious, and trusting as well. I was wondering if these were substantial charges, I know shipping packages can cost a lot, and how exactly you brought it up with your boss. It sounds like from your update that you see the charges, and maybe it’s under your domain to even screen them? I would be nervous if I was responsible for a budget, letting a charge over a few bucks slide. I would also tend to trust a boss to otherwise seemed decent not to go over the top on some thing that wasn’t a big deal. Again, you know your situation best, it sounds like a lot of people are making a mildly annoying situation much worse than it should be. But, if this was a budget that you were supposed to be seeing, it would be worth addressing ones directly before going to the boss unless it was a huge charge / you have clear instructions otherwise.

  91. Hannah*

    I’m starting to feel a little bit like I’m going crazy. There are that many people who think that $30 is a “pittance” and no one should bat an eye if an employee steals that much? Do y’all feel the same way about cash or does it somehow cease to be money because they’re spending it before it leaves the office?

  92. FactsRFacts*

    The manager asked if the letter writer is the type that is doing things like this regularly and I am almost certain that’s the case. The letter writer is the reason why people prefer remote work. Good grief. I think the boss should have given her/him more work since they clearly don’t have enough to do and want to be in everyone else’s business.

  93. Cozy Cat*

    This whole situation is wild. Of course LW is going to get blowback after tattling on a colleague for a minor infraction for which they get disciplined.
    If the policy on mail use is so strict, there should be a clear notice by mail bins. I’ve never worked anywhere that strict, including public service. Everywhere I’ve worked if someone needed a stamp it wasn’t a big deal.
    Overall the atmosphere of this company just sounds incredibly toxic and no-one comes off well. LW shouldn’t be such a tattle tale and talk to people directly, the postage sender should t be so openly hostile, and the bosses reaction to this is mind boggling. These people and rules are why I prefer to stay WFH!

  94. ecb1979*

    Ok. Rephrasing because apparently my post was a little spicy.

    OP, staying in your own lane and minding your own damned business is absolutely free. Sounds like this person was using de minimis amounts of office resources on mailing things (small amounts of postage, etc). You decided of your own volition that this person needed to be reported to management over this heinous offense.

    In the “offender’s” shoes, while I’ll stipulate his response is a bit over the top? I would never trust you again. I would be polite, and only polite, to your face. I would gray-rock you until the end of our working time together. I would never contribute towards your birthday party, holiday white elephant, or whatever. I would also, quietly, and on the DL, make sure my coworkers knew that you’re the person who busts people over the cost of a postage stamp. You were technically “right,” for addressing this apparently egregious violation of company policy, I guess, but honestly? You showed more about yourself than you did your bosses, or about the “perpetrator,” and I have zero sympathy for you here.

    Next time? Ask yourself if this is really worth the effort you’re putting in.

  95. Tiger Snake*

    There’s two concerns with using a business’ postal system (for the business, the individual has other concerns) – cost and incorrect representation.

    For cost, I think it should be treated like using the internet for personal use; fine in moderation. Yes, stamps cost money, but a singular letter because its time to submit your taxes isn’t a big deal.

    The second one can be more of a concern. Even if you’re using your own envelope and paper, does the stampage or other inks put on outbound mail make it look like it’s a legitimate communication FROM the company. We’ve all heard stories about administrative staff sending fake lawyers’ letters using the letter head of the law firm they happen to work with. But that’s going to be case by case depending on how the organisation functions.

    Personally, I think the second issue is why companies have these policies at all most of the time. So that if you DO misrepresent them, they can disciple you for breaking policy. If it’s a small number of items and unmistakeably personal, it’s a much less serious concern to an organisation.

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