Q: The woman whose desk is next to mine spends hours on Facebook and even refers to herself as an "online stalker." She is pals with our network administrator, who supposedly likes to read every e-mail that comes into the company.
I recently figured out that these two have been reading my personal e-mail whenever I access my account at work. Even more alarming, they apparently tried to log in to my online banking. Because they exceeded the allowed number of password attempts, I was locked out of my account.
To prevent this prying, I have stopped checking my personal e-mail at work. This frustrates my co-worker, who now tries to make me log on by saying that she sent me a picture or joke. When I reply that I'll read it at home, she gets annoyed. What else can I do about this?
A: If the cyber-snoopers are this eager to invade your privacy, then they are undoubtedly doing the same to other unsuspecting employees. Therefore, in addition to protecting yourself, you might also take steps to protect your colleagues.
Given the serious nature of the offense, talking to someone in management or human resources would seem to be the appropriate next step. If you know of others who have been victimized, they can also attend and help present the case.
For example: "We thought you should know that some people in the company have been reading their co-workers' personal e-mail online and have even tried to get into their bank accounts. We're asking you to investigate the situation and put a stop to this inappropriate behavior."
You can then provide whatever proof you have of these intrusions. If management fails to take immediate action, informally spread the word that accessing personal accounts at work can make them vulnerable to viewing by others.
Small business is disorganized
Q: After two days at my new job, I have not yet signed a payroll form or been told about my work hours. This is a small family business that has been quite successful, but seems very disorganized. I have made two appointments with the owners to discuss my schedule, but they forgot both times. Is this a bad sign?
A: While this confusion may be disturbing, it's not unusual. Many successful small companies expand so quickly that their processes and procedures can't keep up. To compound this problem, the founders are often entrepreneurial types who are not the most organized people in the world.
Whether this is a bad omen or an excellent opportunity depends on the nature of your position. If you have an administrative job, you may have been hired to help bring order. In that case, your organizational skills will soon make you indispensable. But if your work leaves you at the mercy of these muddled managers, you may soon need a crash course in stress reduction.
Fixing a business partnership
Q: A colleague and I recently started a business venture as equal partners. "Dave" is a local radio host, and I'm a computer geek. I'm afraid our partnership is not working.
Whenever Dave wants something, he insists on getting his way and refuses to discuss options. For example, if we have a technical problem, he wants to buy new equipment instead of looking for a less costly solution. If I disagree, he becomes very moody.
Now Dave would like to bring one of his radio buddies into the business, which I think would be a mistake. I have suggested alternate ways that we might work with this guy, but Dave won't consider other possibilities. These arguments with Dave are wearing me out, so I'm tempted to just disengage and start my own company. Is there any way to make this partnership work?
A: Partnerships are a lot like marriages. You have people with equal power entering into an interdependent relationship where they have to make joint decisions. Unfortunately, the parties often leap into this arrangement without discussing their goals, values and temperaments.
Given the combination of radio host and computer geek, disagreements are not surprising, because these occupations typically attract different personality types. On the positive side, your differences also provide complementary skills, which can be of great benefit to your business.
To rescue this partnership, you and Dave must stop arguing and remember why you started this company. Revisit your original hopes and dreams, then see if you can agree on specific goals.
Next, try to objectively review what you have learned about the differences in your work styles. Start by recognizing each other's strengths, then try to formulate an effective strategy for calmly working through your inevitable conflicts.
If both of you can take a mature approach to this collaboration, then your joint venture may have a bright future. But if the relationship continues to deteriorate, you might be better off flying solo.