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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Snooping Coworker

Dear Sue: I work with this lady who constantly goes through my desk and the stuff on it. I do not have anything to hide or be ashamed of, but it is very irritating to know that she is so disrespectful of her co-workers. I have seen her go through other people's desk as they have seen her go through mine. She usually does this before people get to work as she gets here about 30-60 minutes before everyone else gets to work or while they are at lunch. Any thoughts on what I should do?

- Invaded

Sue Says: I am having trouble understanding why you (or your coworkers) have permitted this to go on and havenít approached this lady about her snooping. This person has the nerve to peruse through other peopleís desks, and you donít know what to do about it? The answer is quite simple: you need to inform her that you know what she is doing, and let her know it is totally unacceptable and inappropriate. Tell her that each person should be entitled to privacy in their own work area and that if she needs something, all she has to do is ask someone for help. Keep in mind that this lady is the one who is doing something inappropriate and that she is the one who should be uncomfortable, not you. You need to be firm and direct with her, and let her know that if she continues this practice that you will be forced to report her.

Dear Sue: I have a problem with one of the supervisors in the office. He has been trying to get me fired for a long time. Yesterday, I left work with a horrific migraine. It was all I could do to make it home. I called a coworker and asked her to tell my immediate supervisor when he returned to the office. Today when I came to work, the supervisor who has it in for me had written a warning up on me and gave it to my boss. My boss and I always got along well and could talk openly about anything. When the two of them asked me to talk with them, all hell broke out. I read the letter and it was a pack of lies. I told the supervisor who wrote the warning that he was a liar, threw the written warning on the floor and told them they would have my two weeks notice on their desk.

My father is in the hospital with terminal cancer and this supervisor is making my life miserable. I still need to put my resignation in writing, but I am not sure how to say that it is due to this big liar. I love the company, the other people I work with and am sorry to leave, but cannot work with this person. Please help me.

Sue Says: I am truly sorry for all you are going through. Your fatherís illness, your migraine, and your supervisorís behavior undoubtedly brought you to a breaking point. Give yourself time to cool down before writing the letter. I am not certain if you are convinced leaving is the best thing for you to do or not, but do think it might do you some good to initiate a meeting with the boss you always got along well with. As calmly as you can, discuss with him the reason for your reaction that day and your resignation.

Although not always possible, itís nice to try to leave a job on decent terms. Even if this supervisor is the reason you are leaving, you do need to take some ownership for your departure, and should not write a letter that entirely blames or bashes him.

Keep in mind that you are bound to run into other difficult supervisors in the future; it will help if you can learn ways to communicate and cope with others that are less combative and more effective.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
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