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I have found out that one of my office mates is attempting to gather personal information about his female co-workers. Though he is grossly inept, the fact that he is even trying makes me wary of him. Should I alert my boss? If the boss does not respond, should I warn my female co-workers myself? More importantly, should someone like him even be allowed to remain in the office?
Worried for my friend
Dear Worried for my friend,
The first thing to consider in a situation such as this is always the direct approach. Can you speak to the information gatherer in a fairly neutral way and say that you are concerned at his (I presume it's a he) gathering of information about female co-workers? You might point out that it is making you anxious and insecure. This gives him an opportunity to explain himself (perhaps his wife is looking for Avon customers) or to simply stop, knowing that he has not gone unobserved.
A next step to take would be to alert your boss. Again I would take the approach of expressing my concern and anxiety about this conduct. You have not indicated how this person is gathering personal information. If he is going through people's personal possessions, the employer owes it to employees to provide a secure working environment. If he is accessing confidential company records, the employer again has an obligation to ensure that such information is not available for unintended purposes.
If your boss is not helpful in responding to your concerns I would take the matter up with the human resources people, or with your boss's boss. Something needs to be done to ensure that employees are not harassed or otherwise put at risk because of a fellow employee.
Thanks for writing.
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