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I work at a small 7-8 year “start-up” company. I have to work every weekend and some holidays. Sometimes random people will come during the weekend to perform maintenance.

That means there’s a group of people who is requesting access to my office so they can do their job. Its usually 1 or 2 other coworkers with me and then the 3rd party random maintenance crew.

One weekends painters showed up. No word from upper management. No one communicated this to us. Our supervisor claims he “didn’t know”.

  1. Is it ok to be expected to open the door for these painters?

  2. Is feeling of a “lack of security” or “unsafe” work environment justified? Or am I being a whiny baby?

  3. Is it considered “fine” for management to not let their employees know? As well as, having expectations to open the door and let them in?

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    I don't understand the title for this question-- this seems like a pretty straightforward workplace policy sort of thing. What is the bullying, and what are the ethical concerns? – Upper_Case-Stop Harming Monica Aug 20 at 19:28
  • This is the strangest form of bullying I ever seen. Unless these painters are painting you, I don't see the issue. It's not your place, nor can you expect privacy of any kind. They can come in, move your desk, etc as they need to in order to perform whatever it is they need to do. They can do all this without ever telling you. They could say, "Hey Puzzled Worker, today is paint day. Surprise! Now move your stuff, immediately." – Dan Aug 20 at 19:32
  • Also, have you ever said anything to your bosses? Like, "Hey Boss, I plan to come in Saturday to finish X." Your boss might be like, "Hey puzzled worker, painters are coming in just FYI. Might get noisy and you might get paint on you." Or he might not really know because building maintenance isn't really something he'd need to know. He might come in see painters and turn back around and leave. – Dan Aug 20 at 19:37
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    7-8 years is stretching the definition of "start-up" imo. If they haven't finished with "starting up" by now then they're likely to continue limping along in that mode indefinitely ... – brhans Aug 20 at 19:42
  • I don't understand the reason the behavior you describe would be bullying or have anything to do with ethics. – Donald Aug 20 at 20:30
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Is it ok to be expected to open the door for these painters?

If management knows you are on site and have communicated to you that painters will be arriving and that you should allow them to enter then yes you are expected to open the door. If you have received no communication from management, I would not open the door. If the 3rd party has an issue with this, ask them to call the person who contracted them.

Is feeling of a “lack of security” or “unsafe” work environment justified? Or am I being a whiny baby?

It is justified only if you are allowing people in to the work environment whom you are not sure if they should be allowed or not. Stop letting in people unless you know that it is OK for them to be there.

Is it considered “fine” for management to not let their employees know? As well as, having expectations to open the door and let them in?

No this is not considered fine at all. If management has an expectation, they need to communicate it to the employees. Don't open doors if management has not communicated with you.

Also, I would suggest working on your resume and looking for a new company to work for. Working at a company where management cannot properly communicate and you are working 7 days a week is not worth it.

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I won't comment on the working weekends and holidays, or the 7-8 years old startup company. However...

What you describe sounds like a security issue in the making, if not already one.

Being expected to let strangers into the office, when upper management says nothing and your immediate supervisor doesn't know, basically means that just about anyone can waltz in and do whatever they want as long as they look reasonably official and there's someone in the office at the time.

It's not at all strange for a company to have maintenance done on the office from time to time. However, you'd usually expect at least managers to know about it, and it would definitely be a plus if they inform people ahead of time that it's going to happen.

Really: anyone can dress up like a painter, or a HVAC repairperson, or an electrician, or a locksmith, or whatever. You can buy a clipboard in any reasonably large bookstore or office supply store, and print some stationaries at home. Anyone with an ounce of graphics design knowledge can make a convincing-looking ID badge in an hour, and probably less.

If there is a policy at the company to let random people into the office just because "they look like maintenance workers", then at an absolute minimum that needs to be clearly communicated from management. (Since you're asking this question, I'm guessing at least no such policy has been communicated.) Otherwise, what happens if you let someone in, and they take off with some expensive piece of equipment? You might not be on the hook legally (though you'd probably have a hard time explaining why you shouldn't have at least some culpability), but it almost certainly wouldn't go down well at your next annual review.

All this goes double if your company handles any kind of sensitive information, including personal data or any types of corporate secrets, which most companies do. Imagine if that repairman with the big toolbox walks in, does something out of sight for half an hour, tells you "I don't have the right size doohicky, I'll go get one and be back in 15 minutes", leaves and doesn't come back. Later, management finds that a couple of binders of sensitive documents are missing. Now what?

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Depending on the workplace, no, it could definitely not be OK for you to open the doors for outside workers. If management hires contractors, they should arrange for their access. If you let random people in, you might be held liable if they steal or vandalize anything.

Yes, you might get questioned for not letting them in, but generally I would make a very serious effort to contact management before letting some random workmen into any locked workplace after hours.

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I'm a little bit unclear on a couple of points of the question, so please forgive me if I'm off-target. But, taking the questions (as I read them) in order:

1. Yes, it's absolutely OK to expect an on-site employee to let in workers that need access to the site.

The part of your story that is unacceptable is that the person (or people) in charge of hiring and scheduling this sort of work absolutely should inform the on-site employees who will give those workers access to the building.

If your office manager tells you that painters from Paint Contractors, LLc will be coming on Saturday around 11:00 AM, then you have enough information to know that the painters are expected and are allowed to be in the building by someone who has authority to grant them access.

It is not acceptable to have any on-site employee allow access to any random people that claim to have a reason to be there. If you don't have clearance from someone else to let them in, and you choose to do so, then in your employer's eyes you would be responsible for anything that happens, such as theft, etc.

I've been in similar situations, and if I couldn't verify with an appropriate person that these contractors were expected, I didn't let them in.

2. You may or may not be justified in feeling "unsafe" with strangers in the office. But that's not a decisive factor in whether or not they can be there.

There is little reason to think that a professional worker representing a company which has been hired by your employer to carry out a valid task in your office is any kind of threat to you. This, however, requires that on-site employees be informed of plans for such workers to arrive.

Indeed, expecting employees to grant access to anyone that claims they have a reason to get inside is the opposite of security-- it's not much different from simply leaving all the doors unlocked. As above, the lack of communication from your superiors about who will need access during non-standard office hours is a problem. The correct solution is to not grant access to anyone without prior clearance from management, full stop. It's trivial to convey that sort of information, and doing so improves security for everyone and everything in your office.

3. It depends on what you mean by "considered fine". It may be standard practice for your employer, but I personally would never operate that way.

The situation you describe is a massive security problem, even if nothing untoward ever happens. Leaving this sort of decision to employees' discretion, without giving them the information needed to make the decision, doesn't serve any good purpose.

One instance like this might be an oversight, but immediately afterward I would inform my superiors at the company that as a general rule I would not give access to any contractors without explicit confirmation from management that they were expected, the company they represent, and what they are there to do.

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Could you please post the exact location of your office, so next week a can come with my mates to take all the computers away for maintenance?

Seriously, nobody comes in my office unless my boss has ordered me to let them in, and has told me how to identify them. And I’d have to watch them, so if they outnumber the office workers, they still can’t come in.

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