17

My manager's manager just sent all his teams an email to ask us to open our Outlook calendars to him. Our Outlook calendar should only contain events relevant to our job, no personal life.

Opening a calendar means that he/she will be available to see the title of our events/meetings and their location.

Is this legal?

Context: France, the company is a multinational, our team is about 60 people worldwide

Update: By default, all the people in our big enterprise company are able to see the calendar availability of every other employee, but they cannot see the title and the location. They can only see that you are 'busy'

  • 41
    Opening a calendar means that he/she will be available to see the title of our events/meetings and their location. That is the intent - (why) is that a problem? – Sourav Ghosh Jun 4 at 7:09
  • 5
    Who owns the email server? Do we assume that this email is a WORK email address that the company provides? The question greatly changes if I were asked to share my personal Microsoft account email calendar versus my employer account email. – Keeta Jun 4 at 19:33
  • 7
    Can you clarify why you think that any of this is a problem? – EJoshuaS - Reinstate Monica Jun 4 at 22:51
  • 1
    @Keeta, since 2001 in France it doesn't matter who own what. if it's labeled as Private. you will need a judge and enought proof. Expect if he rename C drive pas private. – user102832 Jun 5 at 7:25
  • 1
    @JMK I'd be more concerned that installing Outlook on your phone would have you agree with giving the company partial rights on the phone in order to use email. I've seen this happen if you connect a different email client on a phone with Exchange. I believe this is not always the case but if company has set it up, you basically have to agree for the company to be able to wipe your phone remotely. That is supposed to be done if the phone is lost but...it doesn't sit well with me. – VLAZ Jun 5 at 7:34
42

Is this legal?

If legality is the primary concern, this should be asked in law stack exchange.

However, if the question is more about the practice, opening up the calendar to other employees and managers is not unheard of and since you already understand that it's only for the company use, as long as it is visible to only company employees, I do not see a concern there.

Your manager (and manager's manager, and so forth) is responsible for managing your time, and having a look at your calendar is one of the easiest ways to do some of that work. If anyone is not using the calendar booking to steal time (useless meetings / unnecessary meeting bookings etc), there's nothing wrong in having an open calendar.

Personal example: In our team, we have calendars visible to whole team and manager (+1) and Business Unit head (+2) level.

  • 13
    I'd say it was commonplace rather than "not unheard of"! I always look at others calendars when trying to find slots for meetings etc. OP, any events which you set as 'Private' would be displayed only to you, anyone else looking at the calendar would just see "busy" or "private event" – AdzzzUK Jun 4 at 7:20
  • 14
    @AdzzzUK I would not disagree, but to find a free slot, you need not have access to open calendar anyways. Just knowing free/busy would be enough, which is the default access level in outlook, IIRC. – Sourav Ghosh Jun 4 at 7:30
  • 2
    yes, of course. Outlook will display available time-slots when planning meetings. My point was I find the request to view subordinates calendars as being relatively commonplace in a business environment. My second point was merely to act as a "heads-up" for the OP in case they wanted to have certain stuff private. – AdzzzUK Jun 4 at 8:51
  • 2
    @SouravGhosh Well, you might know a certain meeting could be bumped or cancelled in favor of your meeting. So knowing what the meetings are, when applicable, could be helpful. – Azor Ahai Jun 4 at 20:17
  • @AzorAhai Right, I never said otherwise, it's just that to know the availability, you don't need the meeting subject to be known. – Sourav Ghosh Jun 5 at 4:48
22

Is this legal?

Why would it not be?

You just said it doesn't include anything personal and work related things only. If you're at work and clocked in/supposed to be working, your manager has every right to know where you are at all times never mind your managers manager.

They're paying you to do what they require. Managers need to manage their employees and resources in order to get a job done, how can they do that without knowing when you're free, what work you're doing and when you're doing it.

14

Perfectly legal and widely used practice, at least in the UK - makes easier for managers to look after your time and schedule meetings. Also, find you in the big offices if there is need.

  • 2
    What? Outlook is perfectly capable in scheduling meetings without opening the calendar for the organizer. It just shows which slots are blocked, which is sufficient to schedule meetings. – Simon Jun 4 at 18:13
  • 5
    @Simon the slots "blocked" might be "fake" or rather irrelevant, though. Not because the employee is deliberately faking it but, say, there is a recurring meeting that is slotted for 30 minutes but you know usually takes 5. Or perhaps there is a meeting that will be cancelled/postponed but hasn't yet (waiting for arrangements), so scheduling another over it is acceptable. Coversely, there might be a meeting that goes extra long, so booking another right after is undesirable. Without knowledge of the meeting, you can't separate which is which. – VLAZ Jun 5 at 7:38
  • 2
    @VLAZ Or the meeting that a manager is trying to arrange is more important than an existing one, and the manager might elect to cancel/postpone the existing one (ideally not something that should happen routinely, but will be appropriate sometimes). Note the answer says "makes [it] easier" to schedule meetings; it doesn't claim it can't be done without the deeper access. – TripeHound Jun 5 at 11:43
  • @TripeHound that, too. Basically, there are many reasons why a simple "busy" on the calendar might not be sufficient for planning a meeting alone. There is an entirely separate issue that somebody might be interested in just looking at what meetings there are. Perhaps they want to see when the next meeting for project A is, even if they aren't invited or don't plan on going. Or they might be interested in when the last one was. – VLAZ Jun 5 at 16:58
6

This is almost certainly legal unless you're in a company that needs to comply with certain data protection regulations and the calendars contain protected data.

As to whether or not it's a good idea, why might it not be a good idea? Companies vary in how open they are with information within the company, how well they need to secure certain kinds of information, and how they do that. Especially in smaller companies that are either not dealing with a lot of data whose exposure could cause significant loss, there may be no serious issue with everybody in the company being able to see everything everybody else's calendar. Even in larger companies, moving towards more openness is a trend, though it's arguable how popular it is. For example, one of the design goals of team communication tools like Slack is to better expose conversations that had previously been hidden in e-mail, allowing someone not originally involved in an exchange to join a channel and see the full history of that exchange.

From your question it sounds as if you haven't really analyzed what information is in your calendars and what kind of problems could be caused by certain people seeing it. Problematic situations might include:

  1. In a hospital, someone not allowed to access particular patient data being able to see that a certain doctor is meeting a certain patient. This would be an exposure of patient medical information, since you could guess things about the patient's medical conditions from that.

  2. Someone not involved in the sales process being able to see that a salesperson is meeting with a certain company. It is often wise to keep quiet that a sale to a particular company is in progress lest competitors get wind of it and work to disrupt that sale.

So what information is in the calendars in question that poses some sort of risk if your manager's manager knows that information? This situation sounds to me as if it shouldn't be an issue at all, unless data protection regulations are involved. A manager well above you but still directly above you is usually considered trustworthy enough (except in very sensitive situations) that exposing to him what you're doing should not be an issue.

Opening your calendar to other employees at your level or below, or managers in a different part of the company, might be less wise. But even that (again, in the absence of data production regulation issues) is a business decision.

One thing you should do is inform your manager of this request, unless your manager's manager specifically requested you not do so. Your manager can raise the issue with his manager if he has any problem with this that needs to be worked out.

4

My manager's manager just sent all his teams an email to ask us to open our Outlook calendars to him.

This sounds like a perfectly reasonable and ordinary request. These are work events scheduled with company equipment and held on company time.

As a general rule, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy with your work computer if that's what you're concerned about.

Our Outlook calendar should only contain events relevant to our job, no personal life.

It's completely reasonable to expect that you'll use company-issued equipment primarily for business purposes.

Opening a calendar means that he/she will be available to see the title of our events/meetings and their location. Is that legal?

Of course it is. Why would it be illegal for your boss's boss to know the title and location of your work meetings?

3

Local laws will obviously vary, but I know in the US, generally any information and messages related to work-based email or calendaring is the property of the employer, and there's no particular requirement that certain managers, HR, or other privileged staff need even tell you that they are going to access that material before doing so.

With this in mind, I think the only serious question here is if your manager's manager is in a role appropriate to be accessing that information, or if they have the authority to make the request they've made.

Barring that, or some provision in the GDPR or something, I don't really see how the request is even a major problem. In this day and age there's no reason to be using your work email/calendar system for your personal appointments, though it's totally reasonable to block out time for lunch or other events where you will genuinely be out of the office during work time. Whatever the end goal, it is probably within their rights to view and analyze this information, and I would be surprised if they had not already been doing so if they are that interested in it.

0

With the others on the topic of "is it legal" - a lawyer would know better, but yes it likely is. With the others on whether this is something to worry about as well. This may have been a request but I can't imagine they even need your permission, IT staff would be able to change your settings or make events visible to management anyways.

If you are intending to hide something from your managers, I would suggest using services not directly controlled by your employer. A personal Google, Apple, Microsoft account, specific apps, etc.

0

Opening a calendar means that he/she will be available to see the title of our events/meetings and their location.

The only reasons this could be a problem are :

  • An event or meeting is taking place which you are involved in and explicitly should not be known by your manager's manager. For example a meeting with HR about them.

  • There are meetings your immediate boss or HR are entitled to know but which are considered private. Perhaps a medical appointment or some confidential reason.

I would suggest checking company policy on this with HR. It may be that this manager is trying to find out e.g. who was talking to HR "behind their back" or something like that. It won't do any harm to check if they're allowed to be doing this (or possibly even not supposed to do it for some policy reason).

Be discrete checking this.

Update: By default, all the people in our big enterprise company are able to see the calendar availability of every other employee, but they cannot see the title and the location. They can only see that you are 'busy'

It's not always appropriate for any manager above you to be able to see exactly who you are meeting for reasons I have explained. I personally find it a little odd that a manager would do this, not least because it bypasses your line manager, who you actually report to. It need not be sinister, but it's rather pointless having layers of management if people are going to e.g. micro-manage multiple layers.

Our Outlook calendar should only contain events relevant to our job, no personal life.

Someone has already commented that this is an ideal which in practical terms can be broken without trying to deliberately by all the automation smart phone and tablet have. Rules like this are often made by people who have no idea how modern technology works, or are inherited from a time when the technology was quite different.

In practical terms if you need to flag you are unavailable because you have to e.g. leave by a certain time on a particular day, then it's quite useful to have that unavailability flagged in a work calendar so people don't try and stick a meeting (or whatever) in that slot.

0

This may be a little controversial, but the biggest problem I see is the "no private information" issue. Some things are personal, but affect work time, and an overly strict interpretation of this is problematic.

  • Those who have arranged working hours to meet childcare for example may need private stuff in there. e.g. 2 nights a week I'm out of the door at 17:00, no exceptions unless planned in advance. No I can't squeeze in a 15 minute meeting - I'll miss my train and be 1/2 hour late for pickup.

  • Medical and other critical personal appointments may lead to unusual break times, all fully approved at a local level and within policy, but higher-ups need to respect this.

I would say this is relevant to work, so put it in, but I've met managers who would say that's using the work calendar to plan your personal life - and they tend to be the same managers who want immediate access to every detail of your calendar.

  • 1
    Is anything stopping employees from just creating "Busy" events in their calendar (or even "Medical leave" or whatever)? It seems there's a lot of middle ground between omitting it entirely and having an event saying "Appointment with Doctor X to look at my Y". – Dukeling Jun 5 at 11:32
  • @Dukeling IME setting a title of "busy", "leave promptly", or even "personal" would satisfy most people, but the exceptions tend to be the same people who want full visibility in the first place – Chris H Jun 5 at 11:54
  • 1
    If they absolutely strictly don't allow anything personal on the calendar, then fine, that's their right. But they will just have to deal with the fact that all participants will need to actively decline meeting invites scheduled for times when they won't be there for a personal reason – Christopher Hunter Jun 13 at 19:36

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.