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I'm a developer in an individual contributor role. I'm on a team with 3 other developers and one liaison/PM role. We have a manager, who I'll call "Steve". I was moved onto Steve's team only this January, just over a month ago.

Yesterday, Steve asked me for my home address. I said "I can give it to you, but can I ask why you need it?" Steve asked if I trusted him. I said "Look, I've been in the workforce for over a decade now and I've never been asked for my address except when onboarding." Steve laughed and told me "Either you tell me, or I'll get it from HR." I was still confused, but I said "Sure, if it's for a legitimate reason, HR should be happy to give it to you."

I didn't mean it in a hostile or rude way. I just wanted to know why, but since Steve wouldn't tell me why, I thought it would be wiser and safer for both of us if Steve went through HR.

Did I take the correct course of action? Or, should I have provided my home address as soon as Steve asked for it?

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    – Kilisi
    Feb 22 at 1:34
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    Was there any follow up with this? I don't think there is a single correct answer, but it would be fun to know who the winner was this time
    – Mars
    Mar 11 at 4:00
  • @mars I don't have any follow-up. It didn't come up again. My boss never mentioned it again, neither did HR or anyone else, and I never received any mail from my employer. Mar 17 at 14:10
  • That's interesting in and of itself, but there is nothing I can comment that isn't purely speculative. I hope things work out~
    – Mars
    Mar 18 at 0:59

6 Answers 6

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I'd be worried. It's not clear if they have a legitimate business need for this information or, once provided if it would be stored and protected appropriately.

In my experience, contact information such as your home address, personal phone number, and personal email address are stored in the HR system and HR configures the system in a way that allows the necessary people to have access to that information. Necessary people often include HR and superiors in your management chain. The HR system could be a software tool that employees can log into and have access controls and auditing, or it could be a way to request information from HR.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to protect your privacy and make sure that your data is used appropriately and properly secured.

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    I would be even more worried that he did not give you a reason for his request. I would prepare to receive some bad news via letter.
    – seg
    Feb 20 at 18:24
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    Thank you. I just remembered that when I had to be sent some equipment last year, while I was fully remote, my former boss never asked for my address. He asked an HR rep to have the equipment sent to my home, and the HR rep took care of the addressing. My old boss never asked for my address even when he had a very clear and legitimate business need for it. Feb 20 at 19:25
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    @notmySOaccount Going through proper channels protects you, your boss, and the company. Even if it makes it an incredible hassle to send you that employee of the month plaque he wants you to have, it would be best to figure out the process rather than work around it. That would be my approach to push back on any future requests.
    – ColleenV
    Feb 20 at 19:33
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    @shoover I don't know why my boss wanted my address because he didn't explain. So I can't speculate as to whether it's a valid reason like this, or not. Also, since I'm in the office once per week anyway and sometimes twice per week, I don't know why I can't just get the package in the office in that case. Feb 21 at 1:05
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    @notmySOaccount Might be worth following up with HR - ask whether your manager actually went to them to get your address. If he didn't actually request it, after telling you how easily he could do it, it would raise another flag for me. Feb 21 at 9:36
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Steve asked if I trusted him.

I usually terminate abruptly these kinds of discussions with: "I do not even trust myself" - while smiling puzzled, friendly. It is very difficult to fight that, so people usually change the subject.

Steve laughed and told me "Either you tell me, or I'll get it from HR."

I would downright report his behavior to HR. Everything in what he did / said is fishy. Actually, stinky fishy.


Note: in more than 20 years of employment, no boss ever asked me for my exact home address. I might have shared my address if a visit was agreed between us, but that is a totally different matter.

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    I wouldn't recommend comedy or sarcasm, as exemplified in your first paragraph, as a general strategy for this sort of situation. Different people deal with such tones very differently in professional settings. Feb 21 at 15:39
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    @FerventHippo I think it's a good answer, not "comedy or sarcasm". The question of trust with no context is quite philosophical and someone who asks it deserves a matching answer. If someone pressed on after that you would explain to them that there are different levels of trust, that trust is usually based on a premise "trust to do/not do something specific", that there are different methods to evaluate how much you should trust someone in a specific situation, etc. You can offer to sit down with the person and discuss the different ways you could/should trust them in different situations.
    – Nobody
    Feb 21 at 18:29
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    It's not comedy or sarcasm, it's deflecting a question. I would say the ability to deflect an inappropriate question is an important interpersonal skill Feb 21 at 23:00
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    I think going to HR directly only because of this is a bit of an overreaction. Most likely reason is he had a good reason and was just to lazy to go through HR. I would just wait for a few weeks to see if anything arrives in the mail that will explain this. Why stir up water unnecessarily, this could reflect badly on yourself.
    – seg
    Feb 21 at 23:18
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    As a manager, I would be rather concerned if my report did not trust themselves. And when said jokingly, it demonstrates reluctance to be direct and upfront.
    – Greendrake
    Feb 22 at 4:16
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In my company of roughly 2000-3000 people (in Germany), there is a proper reason for this: due to GDPR, our HR cannot give the address or birthday or anything of that kind (i.e., personal information) to a line manager; and they will not, even if asked for a good reason.

At the same time, line managers in my company often organize presents or gift cards for special occasions (for example on childbirth, on birthdays, or if someone is really ill for a long time); sometimes individually, sometimes with the backing of the whole team (e.g., everybody will sign a card with well-wishes, or we might purchase some nice food, flowers and baby toys for them).

Especially in today's post-COVID world, very few of us are ever in the office, at all. So we are usually sending this stuff to their private address... which is very hard unless we know it!

So yeah. Obviously nobody can know if you, in your particular case, did the right thing. And it for sure makes no sense to ponder upon it - what's done is done; your manager now knows that you are a person that thinks about this stuff and is no-nonsense about it. Maybe you dodged a bullet (although I live in a world where I cannot even fathom your boss having to ask for your address to do something unwholesome to you, and then actually asking the question), maybe you missed out on a present, maybe you just made life for your boss a bit harder (in case he can indeed get the address from HR).

In my case, everybody I ever asked for their private address gave it to me - either they were not worried, or they assumed that I would not come with guns blazing, or they assumed that it's a present or something like that.

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  • Same for me. My manager gave employees a small christmas gift each year, and so had to ask my address to do it. Feb 21 at 23:01
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    @GregoryCurrie The "company" might not be the one sending the gifts. Not every company I've managed at has given me a budget for things I consider "necessary" for team maintenance, so I paid out of my own pocket. Not every action by a manager is company sanctioned.
    – Mars
    Feb 22 at 4:25
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    HR shouldn't forward the gift, as at the point the company becomes liable (I'm guessing, not a lawyer). It's impossible to build any kind of personal relationship without risk. But I think most professionals would agree that a manager who builds human connections is more likely to be liked and considered high-performing. Thus at least some level of risk is necessary.
    – Mars
    Feb 22 at 5:39
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    Regarding the large amount of incredulous comments: I am giving my personal experience and perspective here. I do not wish to tell anyone what to do; and I specify that it's not even in OP's country. It is just one facet of reality. Even if you cannot believe it, just for the sake of argument assume that it's true for me / in my country / in my company.
    – AnoE
    Feb 22 at 13:52
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    @notmySOaccount In that case, I would suggest that it's possible that you skew past what people would consider a normal amount of concern for privacy. That's not exactly a problem, but if you find this affecting your human relationships (as in this case, possibly), you may want to speak with someone.
    – Mars
    Feb 26 at 2:46
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Steve asked if I trusted him.

That's a weird thing to say.

It's quite possible that they wish to surprise you with a welcoming gift.

If you're in-office then I am curious as to why they couldn't facilitate the surprise while at the office.

Sure, if it's for a legitimate reason, HR should be happy to give it to you.

There was probably a nicer way you could have expressed this but it sounds like your manager was trying to corner you. Overall, I'd give this response a B- in terms of professionalism.

Something like this could have worked: "I'd like to know the reason for needing my address, please."

Should I have provided it?

No, you clearly don't know/trust them yet.

They can get it from HR or have HR facilitate your manager's need.

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  • Who, after working only a month at a company, receives a gift delivered to their doorstep? I find that situation itself to be highly highly unlikely.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 23 at 7:16
  • If it is a surprise gift why not hand it in person? In the employee's position I would have responded "Do you trust me?"
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 23 at 7:19
  • @Mari-LouA it is not clear whether OP is working remote or in office.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Feb 23 at 9:46
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I think your question presents something of a false dichotomy, as I don't think you necessarily took the right path but I also don't think you needed to give your address right away.

  • Should I have provided my home address as soon as Steve asked for it?

No. Something about the interaction gave you a bad vibe, it's fine to listen to that. The current top answer validates that feeling as well. But I would also say to your other question:

  • Did I take the correct course of action?

Also probably not. The best approach would have been to delay giving your address, and talk to the other members of your team. At my workplace, if something like this happened I would send a message to my coworker(s) who already know Steve. This way, if it is a harmless workplace tradition you can avoid creating a bad impression. But if even your colleagues think it is strange/unprecedented, you are on even stronger ground to suggest going through HR.

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    My only concern here is - wouldn't it be construed as gossip if I asked my coworkers "Did Steve ask you for your address?" I think asking my coworkers this question would reflect badly on me. Feb 22 at 1:04
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    I don't think so. Either a) he's asking for an appropriate reason and it's fine to share that, or b) he's asking for a shady/inappropriate reason and people should know about it. Whether or not it reflects badly on you depends on cultural context, but I can only speak for my own culture (Australian white collar worker) that in my experience, it wouldn't Feb 22 at 2:50
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Did I take the correct course of action? Or, should I have provided my home address as soon as Steve asked for it?

I would have given him the address right away (since I know it's not hard to find out anyway).

Then I might have asked "Just curious - why do you need it?"

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    It should be impossible for the manager to get that info from HR.
    – Criggie
    Feb 22 at 3:36
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    Really? When I Google my "first last state", the first two pages of entries aren't even me. They're others with my name. My address isn't even there. I'm sure my boss could find out, but if it was that easy, he'd have done it instead of asking me. Feb 22 at 17:40

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