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Our office has intra-office mail baskets all over, and (usually, anyways) a stack of empty manilla 9x12 envelopes next to them where you write the destination, throw your papers in, and then wind the string that seals it (they're reusable, not sticky). However, there are a number of times where there are no empty envelopes at the one near me, and since most of the stuff I send is approved invoices or signed purchase card logs, destined for Accounts Payable, I've taken to a habit that I've just realized is kind of questionable - looking through the outbox stack for another envelope going to AP, and just throwing my stuff in that one with whatever it already has in it.

AP has a central inbox, so it goes there anyway, and gets processed by whatever AP clerk is free next - so it's not a matter of not getting addressed properly. My question is: Is it frowned upon to put my stuff into somebody else's envelope if they're destined for the same place to avoid finding one or filling a new one out? I'm not looking at the contents, and I've never given it a second thought until recently it occurred to me that others might feel violated if they knew I was piggy-backing on their mail.

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Hello! Did you ask your fellow employees or your supervisor? This sounds more like a cultural issue in your company. This could very well vary depending on who you work for and what rules they have in place. –  jmort253 Jan 26 '13 at 5:12
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2 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Is it frowned upon to put my stuff into somebody else's envelope if they're destined for the same place to avoid finding one or filling a new one out?

This is going to depend based on your office culture some but in general it is not something most people will like.

A few reasons people may dislike this:

  • Opening another person's personal mail (ie from USPS) is normally a fairly serious crime, at least in the USA. While you might not be reading the contents, people will be coming from this perspective of "reading mail = bad." Granted inter-office mail is different but people associate mail with not-being-read except by recipient
  • People assume the worst. You opening it and adding more means people likely will jump to "this person read the mail in my envelope!"

On a more practical note, some reasons this might cause problems:

  • There may be no way to track you down if there are questions/concerns with the contents
  • Those mail items may be associated with the sender somehow in ways you have no idea
  • If something disappears from an envelope for whatever reason, you are going to catch a lot of flak for opening it - what's to say you didn't take it out of there? You don't want this situation.
  • AP may track "number of received envelopes" or your department may track number of used envelopes, which this will contribute to inaccurate information

The benefit to "secretly" stuffing another envelope is minimal and the drawbacks pretty big.

What you could do though is mention this at one of your next meetings - say something like, "I've noticed we send a lot of stuff to AP. Is there a way we can streamline this process? I seem to find myself without an envelope sometimes and I think there are normally quite a few in the pile to go to AP already" or something like that. If you get this idea publicly supported then obviously it's not going to be a problem if you do that.

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I'll bring this up at our next managers' meeting and see if people share the disapproval of this - at the very least, it will get consensus that we're short on envelopes! –  SqlRyan Jan 30 '13 at 4:33
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yes, I'd definitely frown upon such a practice. Not only does it violate the integrity of the mail and hijacking other peoples' mail, suggesting your message is approved by them, even sent by them, you're now reading mail not intended for you which should be (and quite possibly is) a firing offense.

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