This girl from my office kind of disappeared, she hasn't been in for 4 days now. Apparently nobody has her number or details either.

The one person who has her details and would know where she is (her superior), is in the hospital. Nobody knows what's up and everyone is worried. She's not the kind of person to just disappear, she's normally very social and we have the kind of environment where we would know if she went on an impromptu holiday and often even if she's sick.

Other supervisors have asked me about her since we work together quite a lot. They have also asked me to fill her place in meetings etc, since she is needed right now. People, including me, have tried to reach her through email, skype and slack but she went offline 3 days ago and hasn't responded. The main supervisor has expressed he's worried something is wrong with her and is now trying to find her contact details though administration. It doesn't feel like anyone is angry at her, mostly just very worried. The more time passes, the more coworkers come asking where she is and if something is wrong or not.

Thing is, I've seen her online in battlenet playing overwatch every night. I've asked her to group up in game, but she replied she already had a full team and furthermore didn't respond.

Under what circumstances would it be acceptable to share this so everyone knows at least she's like not in the hospital or worse?

closed as off-topic by gnat, OldPadawan, DarkCygnus, IDrinkandIKnowThings, AffableAmbler Jul 14 at 3:22

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Snow Jul 13 at 18:42
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    I think this is certainly a useful topic to have addressed on the site, but can we maybe reword the question to a "pros/cons" or "things to consider" style? I'm afraid people may be at risk of accepting a yes or no answer here as expert advice and acting on it without thinking through all the possible consequences that could occur in their unique situation. Our goal should be to provide information and opinions that enable others to make good decisions, not to make those decisions ourselves. – AffableAmbler Jul 14 at 3:44
up vote 141 down vote accepted

You should not share this with people because A) you can't be sure it's her and B) you can't be sure if she wants you to share this with the company.

What you can do, is contact her over this service and tell her people at the company are worried about her. You might even urge her to contact the company herself to tell them they needn't be concerned and/or whatever she might want to share. Beyond that, it should really be her own call.

(I'm assuming that, being connected with her on a gaming service, that you have at least some level of familiarity with her. You probably shouldn't do this with colleagues you don't know outside of work at all.).

  • 25
    We play games together and join up for lunch breaks almost every day, so in that sense I know her but I've never hung out with her outside of work. I'll inform her that everyone is looking for her tonight if I see her, thanks! – JaneDoe1337 Jul 12 at 11:30
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    @JaneDoe1337 From the limited information available, this could be the onset of a depression (in my experience). Telling her that everyone's looking for her could send her deeper into "anxiety hell". I would try to phrase it in a way that makes it clear that you are worried, and that the supervisor wants to know she's OK. – pipe Jul 12 at 15:27
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    "You probably shouldn't do this with colleagues you don't know outside of work at all." - Why not? – RyanfaeScotland Jul 12 at 16:01
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    I really don't see why this person's presence in a publicly visible game room ought to be kept a secret. If I saw this person from across the street, for example, I wouldn't think twice about telling my coworkers that I saw her alive and well in order to allay people's fears. Even if I saw the person's car drive past, I wouldn't have qualms about mentioning it - sure, maybe it's someone else who murdered her and stole her car, but it's far more likely that it's just her. I see no issue whatsoever with just stating the facts - "I saw her online last night, but she didn't respond to me." – Nuclear Wang Jul 12 at 19:16
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    This - it could be a simple miscommunication, like she told the boss, who then didn't tell anyone before they ended up in the hospital. I was almost reported AWOL my last week in the service because I told my Staff Sergeant on Friday I would be out-processing the next week - he then took Monday off and didn't tell anyone about my out-processing. – sirjonsnow Jul 12 at 20:05

Your answer lies here in your question:

The main supervisor has expressed he's worried something is wrong with her and is now trying to find her contact details though administration.

Let the supervisor obtain her emergency contact details, determine when and how he wants to contact her, and decide how much of what he finds out needs to be revealed to the team.

What people do outside work in their own time is their own business, and you should not reveal it at work unless the person has explicitly permitted you to.

I see two different concerns here: worries about her well-being, and the "she's missing from work without notice" concern.

If I were you, I'd probably focus on the first one. If you can talk to her through the gaming service, just ask her if she's doing OK or if there's anything you can help her with. Focus on her well-being, and not on anything work-related.

If you get to know she's OK, let people who truly care about her well-being - ie, don't say it out loud, but do tell it to close people who are really caring about her.

And let the company manage the other half of the issue.

Just because she's on Battlenet doesn't mean she's OK.

I had a friend who was also very sociable and outgoing but was slapped in the face with a full-on clinical depression. She stopped going to work, cut off ties with her friends and her tabletop gaming group, and lost herself in online gaming. She wouldn't answer the phone and would brush off any contact attempts over Steam.

It took considerable effort from her friends and family, as well as professional help, to pull her out of the rabbit hole and get her going again. This was a number of years ago and she's still not 100% recovered.

Since everyone around you already seems concerned with what's going on, I wouldn't necessarily go sharing this point of view with your employer, as that might do more harm than good.

If you're personally close to her, just ask her directly on Battlenet if everything's OK. If she doesn't respond to a direct query, you might look into local resources that might help you deal with that sort of situation, such as a hotline or a company-sponsored professional, if you have access to such.

Or it could be that you're not close enough to her to get into that, in which case, you should just leave it well alone and hope that the people in her life pick up on it.

Several years ago a co-worker suddenly stopped showing up one day. He was coming in for years and suddenly never showed up. HR immediately contacted the authorities for a wellness check and unfortunately he passed away from a heart attack. Unless the position is a very high turnover, I would at least do a wellness check by HR especially if nothing seems wrong the last few weeks and she is not answering any phone call, emails, texts, or anything else.

My thought on this is you should allow your workplace to ask authorities to do a wellness check. If she is young, then it's probable that she simply quit and never told anyone. Once the wellness happens, and something is afoul, like she's missing, then definitely bring up the thing about the video game but don't play detective yourself. Otherwise, if she quit or is sick, then simply don't bring it up at all.

  • Without knowing somebody's family / social situation & knowing them well enough to guess whether they're a no notice quitter type, this is a very solid solution that puts everybody's minds at ease and let's assume it's a good scenario and getting a knock on the door from a cop asking where you've been is an excellent way to discourage this kind of behavior, as it's not that hard to say "I quit" if that's the person's intent. – RandomUs1r Jul 12 at 19:54
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    I wouldn't jump directly to contacting the authorities until someone has attempted to reach out themselves. Sending the police is not a first step to resolving an issue; your office should try to call, text, instant message, ping on battle.net, etc... first. Many employers ask for an emergency contact as well, who HR could try calling. And the authorities do not exist to "discourage" going AWOL, particularly as you have no idea what's going on with your co-worker. – Zach Lipton Jul 12 at 23:03
  • @ZachLipton I'm not sure about other countries, but in America, a wellness and welfare check are very common. I never heard of anyone getting into trouble because of it. The police will simply ask, "Are you okay?" And if they say, "Yes, I just quit the job and didn't want to tell them." The police would simply tell the employer that the individual is okay and doesn't want to be contacted. Although unprofessional, there's nothing illegal about simply not answering your boss's phone call when you quit. – Dan Jul 13 at 16:48
  • But I did update my answer to reflect your thoughts. – Dan Jul 13 at 16:52

This question is literally as context dependent as it comes. By that I mean any answer that can be given can be justified in some circumstances. There is literally not a wrong answer.

I would agree with the other answers in the general case. In general, employers generally don't need to know these things, and generally you should not give them. If you are not accounting for any other details that you have not given us, and blindly follow the advice of an internet stranger, "don't share the information" is probably the best answer you can be given. It's conservative, and will generally end up being the right answer in many situations.

Note how many uses of the word "general" there were. I had to say it four times in the last paragraph. The devil's in the details. In reality, the people in your workplace are people too. They're part of society, and society encourages us to feel certain ways about someone who disappeared. If your city just suffered a massive earthquake, and its possible that she could be trapped, its the people of your city that will care to organize a search. If you happen to work for a church, and your boss is the pastor, it may be very reasonable to offer that information to them, trusting that they will use it with discretion.

So use your instincts. But if your instincts don't tell you anything, then don't tell your boss anything. The generally accepted answer is that you don't open up people's private life like that (at least in the US). Any case where you should is the exception to the rule.

While I get the concern, I have been in your position before, the fact of the matter is this is not directly your concern. You are a co-worker and share in the worry, but that is where it ends.

Let me explain.

The relationship of concern is between an employer and it's employee. Full stop. Short of some information the employer should absolutely know about, it is a private matter.

I will give an example or two.

Imagine that for whatever reason the missing employee simply wanted to stick a finger in the air. It is clearly an irresponsible act to quit without notice or even a word, but that would be their choice. How the employer deals with with a missing employee is up to the company regardless of what inside information you have or may have.

Of course there are some reasonable exceptions. For example, the employee was in a car accident, that is okay. Why? Because it does not reflect negatively upon the employee. It is a situation of concern that an employer should know about. However, online gaming is not.

Where one draws the line is a matter of boundaries.

Is the information something tragic beyond the employees control that disables an employee from performing their duties? I say tell the employer. If they went skydiving, keep quiet.

Does the information paint the employee in a potentially negative way? Keep quiet.

Does the information paint the employee in a potentially positve way? For example acted as a hero during a house fire, say something.

You see the employee in what would normally be a daily activity without any concern, keep quiet.

Each situation will be different, however, for this situation, keep quiet. Do not add to the chatter. Do not spread rumors. Do not participate in the conversations at all. Get back to work. If anyone asks, you have just doubled your workload and you want to keep up until the employee returns.

You're perfectly entitled as a private individual to share what you know (very little) and any concerns you have with the police directly (ignoring your employer). They can take whatever action they like, including checking with your office for an address or contact info to try and establish she is well and safe.

Typically if possible the police would do nothing at this point unless they have reason to think there's a problem. But they'll certainly do nothing if you don't even mention it and if there is a problem an opportunity may be lost to deal with it quickly. Let the professionals (the police) make that judgment call.

However ...

Sharing that information in detail with your employer may be a breach of her privacy. Her pastimes are (generally) not a concern of her employer and nor, strictly speaking, is her communications (or lack of) with them. That's a choice she's entitled to make herself. Any affect that has on her employment is a matter for her, not you, to make.

So I'd suggest that this information is not something you are entitled to share with your employer at this time.

Thing is, I've seen her online in battlenet playing overwatch every night. I've asked her to group up in game, but she replied she already had a full team and furthermore didn't respond.

Not to over-emphasize this because it's very far fetched to consider it, but it's possible that despite your comments about this sounding like her, it's not completely impossible someone else could be pretending to be her. Don't assume it's her unless you speak (by voice) with her and recognize her.

This is another reason not to inform your employers of the details, because you have not strictly speaking been in direct contact with her.

This is, however, reasonable information to share with the police if you choose to do that.

Does the employer/HR have confidential access to the home address as well as next of kin information for all employees? Providing this information has been mandatory everywhere I've ever worked. HR should pass this information on to the police who can then do a police check on her being alive and well. If she is missing, police will publish this information. If she is fine, I expect police will probably not inform anybody except possibly the next of kin.

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