Protecting My Privacy from a Coworker’s Prying Eyes


What rights do I have when my employer’s receptionist repeatedly invades my privacy by opening my personal mail?  I don’t want my husband to have advance knowledge of certain of my purchases, so I use my work address, but because I work from home part of the week, I’m not always here to intercept the daily mail delivery.

Even though many of these packages have return addresses that should cue the receptionist they’re personal, she opens at least half of them.

At our recent team retreat, I brought the receptionist’s snooping to everyone’s attention. She got teary eyed and said, “I can’t always tell when incoming mail is personal from the return addresses” and ran out of the room.

At that point, our manager jumped down my throat. He said if I had a problem to take it up with him because he had tasked the receptionist to open mail to save everyone time.

After the retreat, our boss called me on the carpet. He said I’d humiliated the receptionist. I said I thought the retreat was a place where we were to say whatever was on our minds. I reminded him that the receptionist didn’t have to open my mail given that my name was on my packages and that it was a privacy breach that she had looked at what I was buying. I said the simple answer would be for her to put any mail for me on my desk.

He told me I was out of line, that the receptionist was not a snoop and that that he expected me to apologize to the receptionist. He said if I planned to have more packages arrive at the office, I was to notify the receptionist in in advance and give her the name of the organization and its return address.”

What are my privacy rights if I forget and she opens another of my packages?


You can best protect your privacy rights by renting a post office box.

You and other employees have privacy rights against employer or co-worker snooping. No one should look into your purse or open letters marked personal and confidential.

At the same time, your workplace doesn’t revolve around you. In most organizations and particularly during the pandemic with many employees working partiall off-site, administrative personnel open and distribute all incoming mail so that anything needing a timely response gets one.

Do you have any reason to suspect your company’s receptionist wanted to see what you’d purchased? Her not opening half of the mail coming to you indicates she was doing her best to distinguish private from workplace mailings.

It doesn’t appear you regret publicly accusing coworker her of bad behavior. While retreats are great places to say what’s on one’s mind, they’re not a forum for airing personal grievances you haven’t verified.  I agree with your boss; you owe the receptionist an apology.

© 2020, Lynne Curry: Lynne Curry is the author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” (AMACOM, 2016) and “Solutions” (both books are rated 4.8 out of 5 stars on Send your questions to her at or follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10.


2 thoughts on “Protecting My Privacy from a Coworker’s Prying Eyes

  1. Right on Lynne. The way I view things is that if you use the company address whatever comes in should be treated as pertaining to the company and open to company access. The employee can always arrange to have packages delivered to a friend’s house if they are personal. But, that is just my opinion on the subject.

  2. This definitely has a couple of opposing sides. On the one hand, mail is personal and certainly going through other people’s mail is an invasion of privacy. On the other hand, just as you can’t expect privacy with email at work, even on your personal accounts, so you probably shouldn’t expect privacy at work with mail and package delivery. Part of the reason for opening all the mail may be a control against fraud and illegal activity. On the other hand, opening packages sent from an obviously consumer company seems a little invasive. Probably the best thing is for the company to issue a notice to employees that all mail is subject to being opened by main office staff, to protect the company.

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