“I often print personal stuff at work — soccer schedules, homework. When I went to pick up pages at the copier, a co-worker was reading them. He coolly handed them over and left. Should I clarify the policy with my boss?”
Talk about real-life! Our advice expert Sally Schultheiss responded from the office policy standpoint, encouraging the writer not to “clarify” the situation as much as to “casually” bring it up with her boss. Writes Sally: “By taking control of the issue (which could be a non-issue), you show your boss you professionalism and that you want to do the right thing.”
But some readers took a completely different take.
Alice Kell, a VP of Operations from Minersville, PA, viewed the copying as stealing company property: “It isn't a matter of a company being "tightfisted;" it's a matter of honesty and integrity. Whether it is a ten-cent piece of paper or ten million dollars, stealing is stealing. If she's stealing paper in the form of printing personal things, what else is she stealing from the company? And what is she stealing from others?”
Rose De Azevedo of Visalia CA, meanwhile, offered this take from an IT point of view: “Judging from how the question was posed, I'd say the printed document went to a network printer. I work in the technology department of an organization and I would pose this caution: Don't do it — particularly where output machines are networked by a server or servers for an entire organization.
“The reason is because these machines, often all-in-one behemoths, have hard drives that save everything that passes through them. If employees are printing, scanning or faxing [to themselves] documents that may contain sensitive information (such as tax returns and bank statements for a new loan!), that data resides on the machine's hard drive — just like on a computer because that's what it is — an onboard computer. And if those same employees think nobody can see this data, think again. The network's system administrator can see and retrieve anything off these hard drives. This information can also be used in a court of law as evidence in dismissal cases.”
I’ll admit it: In more than 20 years of working, I’ve been known to print out a personal document every now and then. How about you? Is printing out a personal document a form of stealing? And if you do use the copier at work, are you worried about who can see your personal info on the machine’s hard drive?