Betrayed by My Boss?

Lindsey Novak on

Q: I work in a group of professional editors, but we each work independently on our own projects. Our company president is always friendly, greeting everyone he passes in the hallway, but I could always tell there was a secret side none of us could see. I was out of my office for a meeting in someone else's office and when I returned, I saw a Post-it note that was lying on my desk near the corner.

I read it and discovered the assistant to the president had been in my office snooping around through my papers, notes and calendar. The Post-it had a list on it of certain things to look for on my desk. Had his assistant not accidentally dropped it on my desk, I never would have known he had been in there fishing for whatever information he was hoping to find. The assistant has also been friendly to me, never asking me questions about anything, so I can't imagine what he would have done if I had walked in on him looking over my work.

I saved the Post-it note with his name on it and the list of things to look for. Should I show it to him and ask for an explanation? I have no clue why the president would send him in to check on me, especially in my absence. I have an impeccable work record with no delays or errors on any of my work. I am not looking for another job and do not have any clandestine meetings on my calendar.

A: No, do not confront the assistant about the incident. The assistant was acting on his boss' order, and because he works for the president, he likely would not question the motivation. You know what's on your desk and calendar. If there is nothing negative about anyone at work, and no notes of meeting with department heads of competing companies or comments about taking days off that no one knows about yet, then you have nothing to worry about.

Perhaps the president values you as a top employee and was acting on a rumor that you might leave. It's a sneaky way to find information, but not all bosses are transparent and direct in their communication. The president may not want to ask you directly so as not to put the thought into your head. That type of direct communication could motivate you to ask for a raise or to start looking for similar jobs for more money.


In fact, knowing you had nothing negative or worrisome for the president to find, you might want to start a job search to test the job market for both similar and more advanced positions. Job hunting is a way to see what you're worth, even if you are not wanting to leave your current job now.

Hopefully, you have kept personal copies of your performance evaluations; people often forget to make copies of everything in their employee file when all is well. But if your direct boss leaves or upper management changes, you could find yourself in a very different situation wishing you had the forethought before it was needed. Requesting a copy of your personnel record takes on a curious level of inquiry for the Human Resources Department. Despite HR providing such records to employees, it may initiate concern of a potential legal matter due to an incident that has not yet been reported. Finding that private Post-it note may also serve as a warning, regardless of your perfect work performance and far beyond your control, for the company's future.

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