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MaddyStrut
01-20-2005, 10:32 AM
I'm looking for advice about what to do since my boss inadvertently gave me a copy of a memo listing the salaries of everyone in her group as well as some proposed adjustments Salary information is highly confidential at my firm. If you're caught discussing your or someone else's salary, it's grounds for termination.

The memo was accidentally paper clipped to a stack of work my boss gave me yesterday morning. I only came across it as I was digging through the pile this morning. So Iíve had it for over 24 hours (though I didnít know I did).

The options I can think of:

1) Return it to her and explain how I got it. I think this is the right thing to do and it isnít my fault I have it. The only problem is that now my boss knows I know about othersí salaries. As mentioned, weíre not supposed to discuss our salary or anyone elseís. However, people still do and sometimes rumors start flying around. When HR and management try to find the source of the rumors, they start with ďwho had access to this information.Ē I donít want to be in that group.

2) Just throw it away and pretend I never saw it. There are problems with this. I donít know if I can fake it well. The first time my boss says something I now know is incorrect about our salaries, Iím afraid my face will give it away. Also, sheís undoubtedly going to realize itís gone. It wouldnít be too difficult for her to realize she was looking at it around the same time she was putting together that stack for me and wonder if it got misplaced into that stack. If she asks me about it, I know I wonít be able to feign ignorance.

3) Try to sneak it back into her office before she realizes itís missing. I really doubt I can do this. Iíd have no idea where to put it in her office.

I think Iím going with option 1. I donít know how much trouble my boss can get me in since she was the one who gave it to me. Pointing the finger at me would only make her look bad. However, Iím still nervous about people knowing I have that information.

Any advice?

mrklutz
01-20-2005, 10:44 AM
Option 1 is definitely your best bet. When in doubt, the truth will serve you best in the long run. You did not find out this information through any action of your own, but through a simple mistake of your boss. Return the info with a straightforward explanation, and don't mention it to anyone apart from your boss. I expect she'll be thankful for your honesty and discretion.

poeticyde
01-20-2005, 10:45 AM
I'd go with number one, but don't mention that you read it or even looked at it closely. Just say something along the lines of "I was going through my work and didn't recognize this as part of it." and then hand it over.

Clothahump
01-20-2005, 10:46 AM
Option 1 is definitely your best bet. When in doubt, the truth will serve you best in the long run. You did not find out this information through any action of your own, but through a simple mistake of your boss. Return the info with a straightforward explanation, and don't mention it to anyone apart from your boss. I expect she'll be thankful for your honesty and discretion.

Absolutely. Your boss will really appreciate the integrity you show.

LionelHutz405
01-20-2005, 10:47 AM
Yep, Option 1.

You did nothing wrong. Don't change that by lying or trying to pretend you never saw the memo.

mack
01-20-2005, 10:55 AM
I fifth that. Just give it back. No biggie.

MC$E
01-20-2005, 11:00 AM
I just want to add that #3 is a really, really bad idea.

I have access to all sorts of stuff as part of my job, and take pride in the fact that I have never looked at anything I shouldn't have, on purpose.

I did see some "bounced" emails indicating that the company was up for sale, but I kept that to myself.

tomndebb
01-20-2005, 11:02 AM
Option #1 for all the reasons already given.

(And the next time something like this falls into your hands, as soon as you recognize it, stop reading it so that you don't have any problems with "my boss says something I now know is incorrect about our salaries, Iím afraid my face will give it away.")

Casey1505
01-20-2005, 11:10 AM
Option one.

When something like this happens to me at work (management e-mails mixed in with my stuff), I hand it to them upside down and say it was mixed in with my work. They know I know its none of my business, and I feel like handing it back upside down demonstrates to them that I recognize it is sensitive information that I have no right to know about. Generally, the whole incident is forgotten right away, and I've never been included in, or accused of being in "the loop" when the subject of the e-mail has been discussed.

Alonzo John Blitz
01-20-2005, 12:37 PM
Definitely #1 for all the reasons listed - plus - maybe it was "planted" to see how you would deal with it.

MaddyStrut
01-20-2005, 12:47 PM
Thanks so much. I plan to give it back to her as soon as she returns to her office (she's in meetings all day and I don't want to drop it on her chair with a note).


(And the next time something like this falls into your hands, as soon as you recognize it, stop reading it so that you don't have any problems with "my boss says something I now know is incorrect about our salaries, Iím afraid my face will give it away.")

Yeah. I really wish I hadn't read it. Unfortunately, all our HR memos follow the same format. We're in the middle of recruiting and hiring some interns, so there were other (similarly formatted) HR memos in the stack that I was supposed to read. I kind of skimmed through this one without paying full attention (I was looking at it only to determine if I needed to act on it today). Before I figured out what it was, I'd seen the stuff I shouldn't have.

If my boss had put a title in the subject line that was more descriptive than "{department name} HR request," I could have noticed earlier! But that's a rant for another day.

ivylass
01-20-2005, 12:51 PM
In addition to number one...never mention the subject to your boss again. You will make your boss more comfortable, and let her know she can rely on you to be discreet.

The best thing to do with confidential information is to try to forget it as soon as possible.

Unlike a former receptionist, who, upon retrieving from the fax machine a proposed organizational chart that was not yet released company-wide, promptly made copies and distributed them to the affected persons, who were most surprised to learn that Boss A would not longer be their boss.

swampbear
01-20-2005, 01:18 PM
I like the way poeticyde phrased it. Your boss will be glad you recognized that you weren't meant to have it and will be grateful you returned it when you realized you had it.

Take it from a "boss" who occasionally does :smack: stuff like that himself.

Walton Firm
01-20-2005, 02:30 PM
Don't worry about being fingered as the prime suspect if any salary rumours start flying around later. Given that you have just forcefully demonstrated your integrity, a simple "no, I didn't spread those rumours" from you ought to be enough. What else are they going to do about it, punish you for receiving this memo through no fault of your own?

And if they get nasty about it, you can always get nasty back and suggest that maybe your boss stapled a few more copies of the memo to some other people's documents.. ;)