13

For context, I have been working here a month and requested access to an employee evaluation form I wasn't supposed to have access to. My skip skip level manager told my manager, and she started asking all these questions about where I got the form, etc. and was mildly freaking out.

This is the message I'm going to send to my skip skip level manager. Any feedback on how you would take it or what I should write instead would be greatly appreciated.

Hello!

I hope this message finds you in good health and spirits

My name is [my name] and I am new Senior Software Engineer in your organization. My manager is [my managers name]. I am writing to let you know that I did not realize my coworkers' ratings were available in that "Senior Software Engineers'..." Google Document when I requested access. I just wanted a few details on how we were being evaluated, so I could focus my efforts towards the most important tasks. I am new to [company name] and I just want to do a good job. Again, I had no intention of seeing my coworkers' ratings, I did not realize they were present in the Document

This sprint I am ahead of deadlines, and I already passed the AWS certification weeks ahead of when it was necessary. Trying to see the evaluations' format was just part of my being proactive and trying to do a good job. And again, I did not realize my coworkers' ratings were in that document. I was just trying to do a good job

Sincerely, and thank you for your time, [my name]

P.S. I hope you have a great weekend! [company name] is a great place to work and I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to [company name]'s codebase and products

2
  • 1
    Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on The Workplace Meta, or in The Workplace Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Kilisi
    Dec 12, 2023 at 13:52
  • Can you clarify: Were you actually granted access, and if so, did you open the document? The title implies you opened the document, but the question itself implies you never got access. Dec 12, 2023 at 16:37

7 Answers 7

90

Good, but too long (IMO). It's typically better to keep this type of thing short and to the point.

Tell them that

  1. You accessed a document to learn about performance evaluation
  2. You realized that this document contained confidential information. At this point you did XXX (insert whatever you did).
  3. You did not intend to access information, you apologize for it and you will make sure it doesn't happen again. Add any specific action if there are any.
  4. You appreciate any feedback or suggestions they might have.

Keep it factual and keep the decoration to a minimum. Don't talk about your performance since it's irrelevant to this incident. You don't need to beat yourself up too badly: if you had access to a document that you shouldn't have had access to, someone else screwed up and chances are your manager(s) know that.

9
  • 97
    Right. The emphasis here is "oops, you might want to improve security on that document so someone else doesn't make the same mistake." Your own history and performance is completely irrelevant to that message.
    – keshlam
    Dec 9, 2023 at 16:06
  • 24
    "I accessed the document to learn how to cheat the system, accidentally saw everyone's evaluations, when I realized, I copied them for future use and hoped nobody would notice. I didn't intend to access the information because I didn't know I could. It won't happen again if you improve security. I appreciate your feedback, if any, though with my newly gained knowledge I probably won't need it." -- Am I doing this right?
    – DonQuiKong
    Dec 10, 2023 at 10:38
  • 3
    Regarding item 3: should the OP be apologizing for someone else giving them information the OP should not have been given? Dec 11, 2023 at 20:02
  • 1
    I would also recommend explicitly noting that none of the information will be shared with anyone. Also, don't divulge any of the information.
    – JimmyJames
    Dec 11, 2023 at 21:11
  • 2
    @Falco You're describing a culture that doesn't care about security. Trust but verify is the first rule of security. The person who allowed this culture to exist is responsible for the consequences.
    – employee-X
    Dec 12, 2023 at 18:28
69

If your skip skip level manager hasn't contacted you directly, do not send them any messages.

There's a reason that they spoke to your manager - delegation. They've passed this on to your manager, so that's who you should be talking with.

The right thing to do here is move on. Any further engagement on the topic can only serve to exacerbate things.

If it keeps getting brought up, just point out that the fact that you got access to a document is not remotely your doing. You asked, but it was someone else who granted and the mistake is theirs.

1
  • 12
    +100, If your skip or skip-skip manager wants something directly from you, they will definitely let you know. Otherwise don't bother them
    – cdkMoose
    Dec 11, 2023 at 17:06
54

You don't mention your location but from my UK perspective, your message is terribly brown nosing. Sure, you got access to a doc you shouldn't have seen but you don't need to make such a fuss about it. Just apologise and move on - as a senior manager, I don't actually care about your sprint tasks very much at all.

Your bigger problem may be repairing your relationship with your direct manager and your team.

6
  • 10
    Why would OP need to apologize for someone else granting OP access to a document they should not have been given access to? I don't see why this would be OP's fault.
    – Neinstein
    Dec 11, 2023 at 9:59
  • @Neinstein going around requesting access to random documents is not really the right way to do things. If the OP wanted to know the criteria on which they would be evaluated, they should have just asked their manager in the first place. Yes, access shouldn't have been granted, so it's not entirely (or maybe even mostly) the OP's fault but there were better ways to go about this which wouldn't have caused the problem. Dec 11, 2023 at 11:03
  • 6
    If the evaluation is done in a centralized way, managed by HR, policies, and forms, I don't see why it would be inappropriate to ask HR directly for your results instead of the direct manager. I'd even say it's more appropriate. Granted, we don't know who OP asked, but it's safe to assume that they have been involved in the evaluation process, so they have been a reasonable contact. OP didn't request a random document but their own evaluation sheet. Not OP's fault they also (?) got someone else's.
    – Neinstein
    Dec 11, 2023 at 11:09
  • @Neinstein "I don't see why this would be OP's fault." I don't think it is. Manager (or whoever granted access) should just have said "nah ah .... can't do. But eval criteria are x, y and z." - But not simply asking manager for exactly that information but access to a document, where OP guessed to find it is what I would be suspicious about if I were their coworker.
    – Fildor
    Dec 11, 2023 at 11:29
  • 2
    @PhilipKendall: "going around requesting access to random documents is not really the right way to do things" - your experience may differ here, but I for one am already swamped by requests from my reports and others. I am grateful for anyone who takes the little bit of effort of looking for the right documents on the company-wide fileshares themselves rather than waiting for me to spoon-feed every bit of information to them. But, maybe more importantly, is it not the right way? We are looking at A) a free-form request that will get buried in someone's mailbox or chat history (if at all ... Dec 11, 2023 at 14:12
28

Too long and too much "fluff". Here's what I would suggest:

[Skip Level Manager Name or Preferred Salutation], My name is [my name]. I'm a new Senior Software Engineer. My manager is [my managers name]. I wanted to clarify that when I requested access to the "Senior Software Engineers" document I didn't realize that it contained information that I should not have been privy to. My apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused.

6
  • While factually correct, showing a little bit of remorse would help imho.
    – DonQuiKong
    Dec 10, 2023 at 10:41
  • 18
    Remorse for what exactly. It does not seem like OP deliberately tried to access a document they shouldn't. When requesting google doc access, you can't really see what the document has in it, do you? Dec 10, 2023 at 13:55
  • 2
    Remorse (or perhaps regret) for having caused others trouble, even though there was no intention to do so.
    – JonathanZ
    Dec 10, 2023 at 16:58
  • 25
    My apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused. - Seems like a perfectly sufficient and appropriate expression of "remorse" in this scenario.
    – joeqwerty
    Dec 10, 2023 at 17:35
  • 4
    @Tomáš Zato +1 to your comment. I would also add - not into the letter or even say it loud, obviously - that if the document is private, the keepers should not give access to whoever. And if you are new to a company and try to build a picture of processes you occasionally try to access documents not supposed to be accessed by you. This is why companies have access restrictions.I once joined a new company and asked access to company Dynamics as some stored procedures in my product read from it. I just got the request declined and was explained why. I just had no idea what Dynamics were :)
    – Mykola
    Dec 10, 2023 at 21:24
14

I see no reason for you to "apologise" for this.

You requested access to a document, which you believed you had a justifiable reason to look at.
Anyone might reasonably expect an "Evaluation" Form to be a blank template, not a copy of the last evaluation that somebody carried out.

Someone else approved your access to the document, or simply gave you the wrong one.
That's on them, not you.

You received the [wrong] document, realised this and are [now] looking to take positive action.
One of your Managers also realised this and started "freaking out". That's poor Management style and suggestive of a deeper-rooted "laxness" in security.

All that said, this should already be out of your hands.
The document contained Personal data about other employees. Under GDPR, this constitutes a Reportable Data Breach and your Compliance team should be all over this.
If they're not, they're the next people you need to speak with.

2
  • The best answer so far, that’s straight to the point : someone ELSE is at fault, and "your Compliance team should be all over this. If they're not, they're the next people you need to speak with"
    – breversa
    Dec 12, 2023 at 13:29
  • +1 That OP was even able to ask for access (i.e. see the file name in a public folder) points at some dire mismanagement.
    – Karl
    Dec 12, 2023 at 21:48
14

requested access to an employee evaluation form

Umm, so who the heck approved your access?

Somebody f*cked up; it wasn't you unless you've been caught social-engineering something devious.


she started asking all these questions about where I got the form, etc.

Hopefully they're investigating where their procedures colossally fell apart and want to remediate the procedure.


and mildly freaking out

Stahp, you're hurting yourself in confusion.

Profusely apologizing makes you look incompetent.

2
  • 6
    "Profusely apologizing makes you look incompetent.": no incompetent at OP’s job, but incompetent at understanding where/who’s at fault here: the person that granted access to the document.
    – breversa
    Dec 12, 2023 at 13:27
  • Sounds like somebody in the list of "approvers" has just received an email with an approve button and automatically clicked it. We've had a couple of incidents like this (with pull requests being approved by someone who shouldn't be in the approvers group but was for some reason), the answer is indeed to look at the controls here. OP has some responsibility (if they wanted to find out the requirements for Senior Software Engineer or whatever, they should have checked with their boss whether that was the right document) but so does the approver. Dec 14, 2023 at 7:06
9

Do not send anything in writing to the higher-ups. Maybe it is already calming down. If not, it'll go through your manager.
However, I can understand you want to express your apology, but it's better to interact only with your manager. So you could modify your text for her/him. As others have pointed out, you should shorten your message. I'm taking your words but recommend to completely remove the striked through parts:

Hello [my managers name] and
To whom it may concern,

I hope this message finds you in good health and spirits. Please feel free to forward my explanation to anyone with questions about the situation.

My name is [my name] and I am new Senior Software Engineer in your organization. My manager is [my managers name]. I am writing to let you know that I did not realize my coworkers' ratings were available in that "Senior Software Engineers'..." Google Document when I requested access. I just wanted a few details on how we were being evaluated and I simply assumed the document to only contain public information about the evaluation criteria. so I could focus my efforts towards the most important tasks. I am new to [company name] and I just want to do a good job. Again, I had no intention of seeing my coworkers' ratings, I did not realize they were present in the Document
I have not shared this document with anyone [and my access has already been revoked].

This sprint I am ahead of deadlines, and I already passed the AWS certification weeks ahead of when it was necessary. Trying to see the evaluations' format was just part of my being proactive and trying to do a good job. And again, I did not realize my coworkers' ratings were in that document. I was just trying to do a good job

I am sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused.

Sincerely, and thank you for your time, [my name]

P.S. I hope you have a great weekend! [company name] is a great place to work and I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to [company name]'s codebase and products

The statement that your access has been revoked is hopefully true, otherwise request that and mention the revocation request instead!

2
  • "Do not send anything in writing..." Anything you send in writing to any employee is available to the CEO. For digital documents, all it takes is a conference call to the heads of legal, HR and IT. That said, it would be good for the OP to keep a written record of what happened, in case they have a reason to talk to a lawyer later.
    – employee-X
    Dec 12, 2023 at 18:35
  • This is good, but this is way too formal. Remove the formal salutations. And instead of saying: "I have not shared this document with anyone", just say: "I have not shared this document with anyone and I stopped reading as soon as I saw that it contained information that wasn't meant for me." Dec 12, 2023 at 23:01

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .