Q: Sometimes I receive mail at work that is personally addressed to me, not to the company. The office manager opens all the mail regardless of to whom it is addressed. Once opened, the mail is delivered to the addressee on the envelope. I don't want her seeing my personal mail.
When I questioned her, she said she could open any mail or package that is addressed to the company, regardless of the employee named on the envelope. There are some types of mail I'd rather receive at work, but I don't want anyone other than me opening them.
A: The determining factor for reasonability is if using your office address is a convenience preference, a safety factor or perhaps an avoidance maneuver. If you are having trouble receiving personal mail or packages at home, explain this to your manager and ask whether it's OK to use your work address. Many people have packages delivered at work due to the increase in package theft, especially when they must be left outside in public view. If your manager is reasonable, she will not object to you receiving an occasional personal package at work, as long as you are taking the packages home with you the day of delivery and not storing them at the office.
Your manager may have a problem if you intend on using your office address for all of your personal mail delivery, as this sounds like a problem you should handle with your local post office. If you are having personal problems at home and wish to keep your mail private, using your company as a hiding place is not appropriate. Your objection to your manager opening the mail before it's delivered sounds like you could be hiding a serious or threatening issue.
If you are concerned about your safety and feel the need to conceal your whereabouts, then you must explain the matter to your boss or to the head of human resources. They can then decide if the company needs to seek legal counsel regarding any potential liability you may be creating for the company.
If you are not hiding information from others at home, or hiding your location from any legal organization or governmental agency, it's best to use the appropriate addresses for personal life and office work. People have been known to hide employment, salary and tax information in court cases or from debt collectors.
You may be worried over your boss reading such personal mail, but your manager should not be expected to have to examine envelopes to determine whether your mail is personal or business-related. Opening all the mail might be her way of keeping abreast of sales, complaints and any other critical business issues. Because you've brought the mail issue to her attention, you must decide how serious is your need for privacy. Understand that creating much ado about nothing is not to your advantage. If it is important, open communication is crucial.
Email career and life coach [email protected] with your workplace issues and experiences. For more information, visit www.lindseyparkernovak.com and for past columns, see www.creators.com/read/At-Work-Lindsey-Novak.