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I hope I don't lose my job over this

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Far too many employees make the mistake of believing their workspaces and personal spaces are one and the same. No matter how much time you spend filling your office with knick-knacks and family photos, it doesn’t belong to you. Getting too cozy and expecting actual discretion at work could send the rumor mill into overdrive. Here are ways to avoid the invasion of privacy.

Don’t save passwords

Never allow your Internet browser to save your passwords for personal accounts. Having a website “Remember me” or “Keep me signed in” seems like a timesaving idea at first, until you leave that job. Your employer owns the equipment and could easily have access to your emails, Internet search history, and even photos. It’s probably worth it to take the extra steps to enter your password and save personal info to a flash drive. However, the absolute best way to dodge the headache is to limit personal use of company property. Most companies have an electronics usage policy with specific guidelines regarding the use of company phones, cell phones, email, Internet, and voicemail. Familiarize yourself with your employer’s policy before you assume electronic communications are totally private and confidential or decide to transmit highly sensitive information at work.

Don’t say it

Never have conversations in common areas, such as break rooms, bathrooms, or hallways. This seems like a no-brainer, but we’ve all overheard a private conversation or two. No one expects to share private details of their medical leave, marital issues, or salary info with a supervisor and have it broadcasted to the world. Despite having confidentiality and privacy policies, breaches happen all the time. Some employers record phone calls for training purposes, while others monitor the length and frequency of personal calls. Make sure you truly grasp what is acceptable to share based on business need and what is an outright violation. You may need to take a trip to human resources to file a complaint.

Don’t bring it

Purses, briefcases, and gym bags are in most cases off limits for searches. As an employee, you have a legitimate expectation of privacy unless the employer has reasonable grounds to conduct a search or has a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. In other words, think twice before you decide to hide that flask in your desk or snag a few office items to fulfill your child’s never-ending school supply list. Now, an employer would be hard-pressed to justify recording employees in bathroom stalls. When security cameras are on the premises, other areas may be acceptable. Keep in mind that if your employer has a policy in place informing employees that desk drawers, cabinets, and lockers are subject to search or surveillance, you can’t reasonably expect the items or activities within those areas to be excluded.

Guard your personal info like the last petit four in the box. Understand that the workplace is just that—work. If you have to make that phone call, purchase, or risqué pic swap over email, do it on your own time…and devices.

Ashley Watkins, of Write Step Resumes, LLC, helps job seekers and career changers find the careers of their dreams by offering the perfect résumé writing, interview preparation, and career coaching services. She can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or via


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How To Avoid An Invasion Of Your Privacy At Work  was originally published on