My boss has a secret– could it get me fired?

Dear Evil HR Lady,

I work at a Fortune 500 company. I recently found a scanned document that indicated that my vice president (female) and a peer (male) were buying a house together. I sent an email to my peer, Dave, telling him I had found the real estate doc and he should get his document off the network to protect their privacy.

I ended up emailing him the doc and deleting it from the company network drive to protect his privacy, and he thanked me in an email. I then later saw him and somewhat joked about him and the boss. He denied [they were having a relationship], said I was getting carried away and that I should not be reading private documents. I explained that all scanned-in docs are not named and you have to open all the docs to find your own doc. He said the real estate deal did not go through and that it proved nothing. I said don’t insult my intelligence and walked away.

I am afraid he may have told the VP I found out about them and that she may try to get rid of me. She recently fired my boss and another co-worker. She is a cold, ruthless woman and very capable of finding some reason to get me fired. She’s not that fond of me anyway, and I have had some problems at work. While I’ve met my goals, two clients complained about me, and I’ve recently made some noticeable mistakes.

Here’s my question: Should I go to HR and show them the proof of my coworkers’ relationship, since I have the document about them house-hunting together and the email Dave sent thanking me for deleting it? Should I tell HR that I feel that this VP may retaliate against me, or should I wait until she actually does? Would the proof I have of their relationship be enough if she tried to have me fired?

I really think that when my boss (who adored me) is gone in January, the VP will try and get rid of me because I know her secret and it would be embarrassing if it came out. Plus, she does not really like me anyway.

To read the answer, click here: My boss has a secret–could it get me fired?

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9 thoughts on “My boss has a secret– could it get me fired?

  1. It’s amazing how things just snowball.

    I’d say you did the right thing by giving the docs to the rightful owner. However, your first misstep was in thinking it was okay to bring the subject up again. Obviously it was something personal, but you weren’t involved. Why even broach it?

    Under normal circumstances, without your performance issues, I’d say you might want to worry about what they might do to you. However, since you have had issues, will you ever be able to separate what you did from performance? It’d be hard.

    I agree with EvilHrLady, keep the document but then keep your mouth shut and nose to the grindstone, so at the least you’ll know it wasn’t a performance issue.

    And next time, only take your own stuff off the printer.

    1. My editor made me cut out the part where I said that if all scanned files go into the same folder, you just go in and sort by date to get yours.

      She was obviously snooping.

      1. While I’m in 100% agreement that the writer was snooping and overstepping her bounds, it’s possible that she might have had to open the documents to find out whether they’re hers or not. In my office, sometimes things do get left in the scanner if things get hectic and when things calm down I have to go through and make sure all the scanned documents are filed where they should be.

        I’d certainly say that it should be immediately apparent if a document is yours or not, though, and in the case that it’s not, the only appropriate action is to close the document before looking at it any further.

  2. Simple rules to follow if you come across non-work related personal and/or confidential documents, whether paper or electronic. Once you realize something is not your business, stop looking at it. Never, ever mention the information you saw to the person or people involved. One exception, if the information is clearly about illegal activity then turn it over to HR, anonymously if you can. If you find yourself with a paper document in your hand that you shouldn’t be seeing, then shred it and forget it. The exception about illegal activity applies here, too.

    Having possession of confidential personal information not intended for you very rarely gives you any meaningful advantage. Having this information and admitting to it can certainly result in a severe backlash from the person or people to whom the information belongs or refers. Minding your own business goes a long way towards protecting your own career and professional reputation.

  3. Letting Dave know about the document was a good thing to do. But you should have stopped there, and never brought up the subject again. I’ll admit it makes me wonder if the clients complained due to similar poor judgment….in which case, I wouldn’t blame them.

    If I were you, I’d stop obsessing about this relationship (which you don’t know for sure even exists in the way you think it does), and start thinking about how to improve my performance. And probably about finding a new job. Not because you’re definitely going to get axed, but because it might be better to see about getting a fresh start somewhere else.

  4. I was with you until you wrote, ” I said don’t insult my intelligence and walked away.” For me, that’s when your integrity came into question. Had you kept your mouth shut, you would have probably earned your co-worker’s gratitude. As you have handled it so far, you have given both your co-worker and the VP reason to distrust you, if they didn’t already.

    If there is no reporting relationship between Dave and the VP, there is just not much of an issue here. At most, the HR person will have a chat with them to make sure there is no actual harassment going on. That’s if there is even a romantic relationship in the first place, which at this point seems to be just a salacious rumor that you are trying to start.

    Not only have you admitted that you are not a stellar employee, but you have now placed yourself in the ranks of “sh*t disturber.” I recommend that you stay out of other people’s business and try to save your job by becoming worthy of it. But based on how you handled this situation, it may be too late.

    1. ‘I was with you until you wrote, ” I said don’t insult my intelligence and walked away.” For me, that’s when your integrity came into question.’

      Agreed, super-agreed. That kind of statement in that kind of context just really, really stinks. He wasn’t insulting your intelligence, LW. You were tactless and nosy by bringing it up after the matter was dealt with, and he was telling you to mind your own business.

      If you’re as generally tone-deaf as you come across in your letter I’m not surprised you’re not a star employee.

  5. Ugh. The OP way overstepped. This whole thing was none of her/his business. If they saw that it wasn’t their document, stopped reading, and then took it to Dave, fine, but then it should have ended there. OP should look to her/his own performance before hassling someone about their issues. Nobody likes a hypocrite–or a snoop.

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