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My desk is right in front of a meeting room with a big glass partition and everybody can see my screen (two screens).

Occasionally I check the news or property websites or have some music in the background. Everybody does, it's natural. I am a software developer and spend at least 10 hours in that office. Basically I live in it.

One of the directors (I don't know who) must have looked at my screen for a prolonged time while he was having a meeting and then complained to my manager that I am not doing enough work. I took this as an insult and felt my privacy was being invaded. Does this constitute as harassment?

My manager told me I am not in the "black books" (I asked him) and that I should better do it less, but in all honesty I felt a bit intimated by all this. I don't want this to cause trouble at my evaluation. I thought about talking to HR but I am worried whether I will be rocking the boat and shooting myself in the foot.

Any suggestions on how to approach this? Or shall I just give it a rest?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Neo Dec 17 '19 at 13:13
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    As a software developer you do realize that all sites, spotify, youtube and so on are visible to IT as they track internet usage and they can give that information to anyone who have privileges to ask. You are at work, using company tools. There is no privacy to be violated. – SZCZERZO KŁY Dec 18 '19 at 8:23
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One of the directors (I don't know who) must have looked at my screen for a prolonged time while he was having a meeting and then complained to my manager that I am not doing enough work.

You got direct and honest feedback - your screen space should be covered by more work materials and less by news, music, videos, etc. Whether it's a valid one when levied against developer doesn't really matter, unless you want to then go, track down that complaining director and buff it out with him. Make sure to update your CV before you do so and maybe call few recruiters, as you will be looking for work after that exchange, especially if you will suggest harassment.

I took this as an insult and felt my privacy was being invaded.

Why? You are in a workplace, using workplace computers, in a spot where you know that people can look at your screen. You have very little expectation of privacy in that situation.

Any suggestions on how to approach this? Or shall I just give it a rest?

The latter, strongly. Maybe browse the news on your phone, which you can place flat on the desk or something. This way at least it won't be beaming into a meeting room.

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    Being seen on your phone will likely have a worse result than getting caught looking at non-work stuff – Mars Dec 17 '19 at 4:04
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    I wouldn't say that's true everywhere, my last boss rather had us check our whatsapp on the phone than using whatsapp web on the pc. Not sure about his reasoning, but probably like @Tymoteusz Paul said, it's not that visible to others what you are doing. – kirbby Dec 17 '19 at 7:10
  • @kirbby If you don't normally use your phone for work, then it will 100% be assumed that you're doing private things, which is what got OP in trouble in the first place. I'd assume it's worse when they can't see what the content is--I don't think it would be weird to assume OP was playing games – Mars Dec 17 '19 at 7:14
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    I guess I'll just carry on quietly and avoid causing trouble, so I won't have to come back to a negative environment every morning. Being constantly on display due to where I am sitting, doesn't mean I am putting a show for everybody to see. In the workplace it's common for most people to gossip in the quiet so I think it's best to avoid giving them the right. As for the phones as some others mentioned here, I personally find the use of the phone at work more distracting and cumbersome. Lucky for me I am not a Facebook addict... – LittleFighter Dec 17 '19 at 9:03
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    @LittleFighter Also, stop doing overtime unless explicitly requested and adequately remunerated. It doesn't help anybody. – bracco23 Dec 17 '19 at 10:28
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You're 100% in the wrong

Even if you claim it's natural, no director is going to expect that you're doing private things on work PCs during work hours.

It may be natural to do this sort of thing (in your company), but clearly you're at least expected to hide it.

Your desk location sucks. You got the short end of the stick and you can't hide easily.
The only thing you can do is pay attention to when meetings are taking place and focus 100% during those times. You can also try to get your desk moved (but should wait until things cool off before requesting it, so that the connection isn't obvious).

In the working world, there are times when you at least have to pretend to be professional. What do you think the ramifications would be if a client was the one that noticed and asked about you goofing off during work? This time you damaged your reputation, next time you might damage the whole company's. The directors won't let you off with a warning in that scenario.


The other answers are dangerous here. Using your phone or covering your screen will only have the opposite effect.
・If you're on your phone during the next meeting, they're going to notice and things will escalate.
・The director that brought up the issue will likely be checking on your screen for the next while. If you use privacy screen filters, it will be noticed, you'll likely be told to remove it, and you will be further scrutinized. It will come across as you attempting very hard to slack off, despite having just been warned.


To address all of the "it's not 100% in the wrong!" comments:
There may be some exceptions, but you won't know you/your director are the exception until it's too late. They may even allow it--that doesn't mean that doesn't affect your image.

The advice here IS 100% always the same: Don't get seen doing it.

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    Yeah my location is really bad and unfortunately the people in the meeting room seem to be more interested in other people's work than their own work.. I guess I'll have to be watching my back and protect myself for a while.. causing a fuss about this might put me in the spot even more so. Certain colleagues of mine here told me it shouldn't be any of their business what I am doing at my desk as long as do what I have to do, but I'll keep a low profile - for my own good. – LittleFighter Dec 17 '19 at 8:57
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    All programmers I know read (tech) news sites. There is a nuance when and how long, but we all do it. It is impossible to focus 100% of the time and/or sometimes an issue requires your mind to give it a little rest (using subcoucious). – Martijn Dec 17 '19 at 9:36
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    "No director is going to expect..." Well there are many directors finding this totally normal and only expecting that you take responsibility to deliver what is requested on a timely manner. There are directors putting table soccer, videogames & so on in the workplace. There are many places where "smoking time" is not off the clock too... so why should this be considered 100% wrong? – Laurent S. Dec 17 '19 at 9:53
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    @Mars then he's not 100% in the wrong. – Cris Dec 17 '19 at 10:21
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    @LittleFighter It may well be that you were put on that desk BECAUSE you were considered likely to be not working. In which case you have now proved them right. You are now in the situation where you've lost your bosses trust. Perhaps the question you should've asked is "how do I regain it" rather than "how do I continue not working". This answer seems to largely answer that. – UKMonkey Dec 17 '19 at 12:29
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Does this constitute as harassment?

I think not.

The director (who I take is your superior) was "just" making a remark to your manager on something they saw.

As far as you've told us, the director hasn't insulted, threatened, or made any move that would constitute as harassment (the fact that these remarks surprised you does not make it harassment).

Any suggestions on how to approach this? Or shall I just give it a rest?

Your manager already suggested what you can do, and it was: "My manager told me I am not in the "black books" (I asked him) and that I should better do it less"

Taking this to HR or escalating for something that is not harassment is not something I would suggest you to do, as it can easily backfire.

Something that you could also try is to get some Privacy and anti-glare screen filters, as to avoid unwanted people from peeking on your screen. This, along with you trying to be more careful when meetings are in place, is perhaps the best course of action I can suggest.

This, however, would not prevent your IT department from being able (and in their rights) to monitor your activity, regardless of your screen filter.

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I'll keep it short, because your situation has quite a few points:

  1. This was not harassment.
  2. It's rarely clever to act against a company director.
  3. As long as you have this desk, pay attention to meeting hours.
  4. Try and get a different desk assigned.
  5. Work less. Destroying your health isn't worth it, even more so if your company doesn't value your contribution anyway.

[the director] complained to my manager that I am not doing enough work.

The director doesn't know a thing about your work, trust me. He just saw you spending time with non-work related stuff and couldn't let this go uncontested. The remark has nothing to do with the hours you "work" or the amount of work that you get done.

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Everybody does, it's natural.

I'm a software developer and I don't. And no one in my office has ever done this (unless it's lunchtime). I know this, because of the way our office is configured. It's an open floor plan and it's configured in such a way that everybody knows what everybody else is doing.

If everybody does it, it's actually a bigger problem than what the Director thought.

...and spend at least 10 hours in that office.

Okay, you win.

At my workplace, I never worked more than 40 hours a week (on average).

Does everyone in your office work 50+ hours a week?

Basically I live in it.

You're not being harassed, but you are indeed being overworked.

Honestly, if you're in the US, it's a distinction without much of a difference. It's not like there is much you can do legally either way.

If I were you, I would brush up on my resume and I would place a small convex mirror on the corner of one of my monitors. And I'm with Mars on this one. I think that placing privacy guards will create more trouble than they're worth at this point.

And I would focus on my productivity, not on the amount of time I stay there. In fact, you should try to reduce those hours if you can. You're robbing yourself at this point. This is not good for you. You need to develop a life outside of work.

And you should brush up on your resume on the unlikely chance that you get yourself fired, or on the chance that you're able to find a better employer with a more reasonable work schedule.

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    10 hours in the office isn't particularly odd if you have a 1 hour lunch (and don't eat outside, as many do). It's really confusing that a 40 hour work week is generally 45 hours (or in this case a 45 hour work week is 50 hours) – Mars Dec 17 '19 at 2:14
  • I am not getting fired, I guess someone was getting bored in the meeting room and found it more interesting to watch at my screen instead. That someone was being nosey and busybody, it's not like nobody else is browsing websites now and then. I saw plenty of people here browsing on YouTube or playing fantasy football. To put this matter to rest, I guess I will have to be a bit more careful that's all... PS: My resume is always up to date! Lucky for me the place where I live (Manchester, UK) has plenty of opportunities. – LittleFighter Dec 17 '19 at 9:08
  • "I saw plenty of people here browsing on YouTube or playing fantasy football." Once again, that's an even bigger problem that everybody is doing it. – Stephan Branczyk Dec 17 '19 at 9:14
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    It's amazing that you're able to not do this. I tend to lose concentration quite quickly (& often). – Allure Dec 17 '19 at 11:28
  • @LittleFighter Then look for something else, or just stop doing overtime. Afaik the UK has a 40 hour week. Given an 8 hour day I wouldn't say it's common to browse other websites all the time, but a few times a day yes (maybe not for all people). We're all human. – hunger Dec 17 '19 at 11:33
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That remark the director has made was certainly misplaced and counterproductive at best (if anything, shouldn't he set an example of hard work by paying attention to the meeting he was attending, rather than browsing around?). Having said that, you're simply not in the same weight category to do anything about it, so I suggest you just let it go.

I wouldn't expect any serious trouble, unless your manager is an idiot who values "no fun at work" rule more than your actual performance. He might have to reflect the incident in your evaluation, but this should be inconsequential in the long term. If it does have consequences, I'd be inclined to have a word with your manager about the actual performance you put on the table, but I wouldn't bring it up first.

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Whenever receiving feedback consider the position of the person you get it from.

The director, in all likelihood, knows little about your job but what they do have is a reputation more closely linked to the business. You might feel their assessment is unfair but if they were sat with a client or external party in the meeting room behind your computer consider how it may look for them.

Another point - I went through a phase of checking news sites and such at work...and also working long hours. Cutting out the time spent on other sites means I now get my work done in the time I'm paid for - everyone wins. Perhaps, for yourself not the director, try having a very focused and productive but shorter work day.

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