Is the following normal and acceptable and, if not, how should I address it?

I started working at this new place a few months ago. I am on a desktop. At first, I noticed things like my computer running when I had turned it off the prior night. If I leave my coffee cup in front of my keyboard, it is moved aside in the morning. When I mentioned needing admin access on my machine, my ranking co-worker (defacto IT guy) admitted that he entered my office and did it the night before, after I had left. I have notice this now, I would say, 6 or more times. Before assigning me this computer, they had not wiped it. I know there are other user accounts on my machine. It generally feels like a lack of trust and professionalism. The office doors are key locked, at night too.

Am I right to be irritated that people are regularly going through my office without asking? I recognize that it is all company property, but I find it a bit rude.

EDIT: It sounds as though I am probably in the wrong to feel defensive about this. I never keep personal information of any kind on my work computer, but I come from a company with very different practices. Before, I had a laptop that was required to be taken home, the rule was to never let it leave your side unsecured. IT changes were pushed remotely. This is just new and uncomfortable, but not wrong.

  • 1
    Don't leave any personal items in the PC. Logout of any sites before you leave for the day, Also mention this to your manager so he knows that someone is using your PC at night, this way you cover yourself. Best to remember that it is their PC.
    – Snowlockk
    Jun 6, 2017 at 12:37
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    This is going to vary from office to office. I would ask your manager "Is it normal practice for other folks to be using my machine after hours?:
    – Neo
    Jun 6, 2017 at 12:42
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    Would you rather that IT and cleaners perform routine maintenance on your workspace while you're working, stealing time from you? It's incredibly common for corporate IT to do things that result in work stoppage on off hours, so as to not needlessly disrupt the employees.
    – Magisch
    Jun 6, 2017 at 13:14
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    @Magisch is right about the cleaning crew. I come in with my keyboard and headset moved around daily, and it's expected because they're there to clean my desk and office area. I do know a coworker who locks the door and takes the key, but the cleaning crew has the ability to come in, as they have the Master Key. Jun 6, 2017 at 14:53
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    Maybe mention to your boss that you noticed, were a bit surprised, and just ask if that's normal policy. If it is, thank him for clarifying and consider your office only to be "your" office when you are actually working in there. Jun 6, 2017 at 15:58

5 Answers 5


Yep that's pretty irritating, and I would probably feel similarly about it to how you do. However assuming that the person(s) doing this have the appropriate authority in the company to do so then there isn't a lot you can do about it (of course leaving is the nuclear option), it may speak to a lack of trust but I would be wary of jumping straight to that conclusion. It's not unheard of for things like this to just be the norm in a company and may have no reflection upon you or how the company feels about you at all.

If you think about the "granting admin" case - IT & Network admin staff often do things out of hours to reduce disruption to the working day. I've worked in several companies where staff could walk in the next morning and find all their equipment had been swapped out or even moved to another desk entirely since they left the previous day. Things like the coffee cup moving could be so many legitimate things - an admin using the machine or even a cleaner moving it to clean the desk surface.

Regarding the other user accounts and the lack of a wipe before you started, well, as easy as it is to start thinking of a work computer as "your machine" it really isn't it is the company's computer and they can do whatever they like with it.

As to what you do now I would say not to panic at this stage, I would ensure I didn't keep anything personal (or anything you wouldn't want the company to see) on the computer but I would advise that regardless (not your machine remember?) and if you get any solid indications or evidence that they are actually "going through" your computer or things then you can either raise that specifically and see what they say or leave depending on whether you feel that the situation is rectifiable or not.

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    This is true. I work in IT in my company and we generally don't do big updates, installs or moves when people are there. This is because there is no need to steal time from coworkers to do routine procedures that you can do without them anyways. But of course the professional thing is to give a heads up on it. "I'll be updating your PC tonight, make sure it's turned off for now".
    – Magisch
    Jun 6, 2017 at 13:11
  • Even if these individuals have the authority and legal right to do these things, doing them "covertly" and not telling the people to whom the equipment is assigned that it's happening is inconsiderate, bordering on unprofessional. I frequently leave things running on my desktop overnight/while I'm away and if that was interrupted without any warning, I'd be quite upset.
    – alroc
    Jun 6, 2017 at 13:14
  • @alroc A lot depends on what is the "norm" in the organisation. I'd agree that it's certainly more civil to give people the heads up but you don't always have the advance knowledge to give people that heads up. Also it's not uncommon for people running overnight tasks to be expected to give IT a heads up (even via a Post-It note on the keyboard) that their machine needs leaving alone that evening
    – motosubatsu
    Jun 6, 2017 at 13:23
  • @alroc I had to walk past people holding M-16s every day, the IT security was about as strict as I've ever seen. It depends on what the norm of the environment is. Jun 6, 2017 at 13:25

It's their sandbox, their rules.

That said, protect yourself. Keep nothing personal on your computer, and don't keep things in your office you don't want people touching, looking at or taking.

This should be something you do even if people aren't going through your things.

  • Maybe leave a note asking them to water OP's plants in the office, while they are there, though... :D Jun 6, 2017 at 15:56
  • @PoloHoleSet or a very loud alarm set to go off. when a drawer is opened. Jun 6, 2017 at 17:41

You've answered the first question yourself; is it wrong? technically no.

But the second question is why do you feel weird about it? I've found that something 'feels wrong' if it doesn't tick all of these these boxes...

Intent: Are they doing it for good reasons, to be helpful or kind?

Constent: Did they ask permission? Not everything requires permission, but affecting people without their consent is bad manners like pushing past people or taking the last doughnut in the break room.

Expectation of harm. Is it sensible to assume that people won't be physically or mentally harmed by their actions?

If you don't know why they're doing it, what they're doing and you haven't given consent, I think you have every right to feel weird.

If you ask what they're doing and why (intent) and you still don't mind (consent) it probably won't hurt you (expectation of harm).


I always find it unusual when new starters are given workstations with the residual cruft from the previous users. As far as I can tell the easiest way to deal with this is usually to load up the 'add remove programs' screen and have a browse for software available on the network, 9/10 times you will find that there's a reimage or restore to base image package which you can run to wipe all the old stuff off the machine.


Company equipment including computers are the company's property. Management can authorize people such as IT administrators to access the employee's computer at their own discretion. However, employees must also be aware of the company policies. You should speak with your manager about this. Do not ask in a negative way or show signs of anger about this, or else they might suspect that you have something to hide, but show them that you are uncomfortable about this, and you are afraid that some important documents might be misplaced or lost. And avoid to leave personal data on the computer.

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