Several years ago, a coworker sent an e-mail
to our entire office - some 150 people -
informing us she would be out of the office for
two days to have her tubes tied. In the e-mail,
she explained she was having
the procedure because her
husband was afraid to have a
This was more than I wanted
to know about her and her
husband\'s private parts.
While that coworker obviously
adhered to the \"my life is
an open book\" philosophy,
there are many other people in
Corporate America whose
lives may be open books without
them even realizing it.
This has to do with the common
policy of \"open access\" to
daily electronic calendars. People put all sorts
of information on their electronic calendars -
both business meetings, personal meetings,
appointments with doctors or divorce attorneys.
And it\'s all there for anyone\'s reading
In today\'s business environment, online
access allows coworkers to legitimately check
other people\'s calendars to schedule meetings.
In the process, they can learn a lot about
each other\'s daily habits.
Justin knew his department
was going to be \"re-orged\" a
week before the higher-ups
made it officially known. He
learned all the details ahead of
time thanks to a coworker who
took the time to review everyone\'s
calendars and piece
together the scenario.
Is this version of corporate
snooping particular to Justin\'s
office? It\'s difficult to tell. If it is
a universal issue, everyone is
keeping it under the radar. This
may be because, as one person
admitted, \"It only becomes a
problem if someone gets burned.\" In other
words, people who rifle through other\'s calendars
aren\'t likely to chat about it over the
People can take steps to protect their privacy,
explained Beth, an executive at a Downtown
corporation: \"Most calendar programs
give users the ability to indicate they are in a
\'private\' meeting, but people either become
lazy and forget to use the privacy feature or
get so busy that they just forget that anyone
can see their calendar.\"
Jean is a big fan of the privacy feature. \"I
use it all the time because I regularly see my
therapist, manicurist and hair stylist during
working hours,\" she said. \"I don\'t want my
coworkers to know just how often I\'m taking
time away from work.\"
Jean did find a crack in the cloaking function,
however, and offered these words of
advice to online calendar users: \"Remember
that the privacy feature doesn\'t work if you
first write the meeting on your palm pilot and
then sync the meeting into your main computer.\"
Of course, calendar snooping is just the latest
in a long history of corporate sleuthing,
employed by the rank-and-file and corporate
As my friend, Tyler, shared, \"our corporate
attorney\'s office had an air duct which allowed
her to hear all the conversations in the office
of the HR person, who was in charge of layoffs.
Thanks to the shared air duct, the attorney
heard plans to lay off a large portion of the
legal team, including her. Needless to say,
since the attorneys had advance knowledge
they could plan their counterattack.\" Tyler
said the legal team ended up with a much better
severance package than they would\'ve had
without the air duct notice.
While corporate snooping is neither pretty
nor (in the case of the duct-listening attorney)
ethical, it is part of corporate life. If you\'re
incredulous that people make the effort to
study your calendar, think again. Electronic
calendar snooping is a corporate sport.
While you might never send a corporationwide
e-mail announcing your plans for your
private parts, listing the name of your physician
on your calendar might be enough for an
industrious coworker to figure out exactly
what you are doing next Thursday.
If you have a good workplace story to tell,
please contact Elana Centor at
firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave her a message
at 825-9205 (then hit 102 for her
voicemail). You can remain confidential,
as can your company.