29

I have a bit of a weird situation.

I work for a tech subsidiary of a large multinational corporation that employs across all subsidiaries and companies owned a total of around 180-200k employees.

My small company branch of <10 people shares an office building with a sister company branch of about 20 or so with whom we do not share any kind of work responsibilities. Our actual workloads are completely unrelated, with the exception of sharing an HR department. The management of their team has absolutely no power of our team beyond maybe pulling some strings behind the scenes.

The CFO of their company, for some reason, has taken it upon himself to constantly walk past and peer into my office throughout the day. I share my office with two coworkers. I didn't even really notice until my coworker pointed out that he was doing it, and told me that he had a history of complaining to our boss if we left the building early or got to work late-- even with a totally legitimate reason (including WFH which is given to us at times). My boss is frequently traveling, so the CFO must feel somehow like it's his responsibility to do this, as though we are too immature to be professional.

After my coworker pointed out that their CFO was constantly doing this, I started to notice it more and more. The glances grew longer. I would make awkward eye contact as he did it. I then started counting occurances: 10-15 per day.

This week came the real kicker. My office has two doors: one that leads to the hallway that everyone uses, which is the hallway he always stares into my office from, and the other door in my office is behind my desk and leads to a couple cubicles that are also accessible by the common hallway. This second hallway is a part of the building which typically only my team uses (we can talk to each other while the door is open, but it's usually closed while we're working). The CFO walks through my office, from my team hallway, to the common hallway, and stares at my screens as he walks through my office.

At this point, it's really getting distracting and incredibly obnoxious. Not only is it obnoxious, it's very rude and in my opinion disrespectful. This guy is typically rude, but having him walk through my office was another level of rude. It's just getting more and more obnoxious, and really beginning to stress me out. It's affecting my work because it happens at least once an hour, possibly more...How does he have time to do this? Doesn't he have work to do?

I've never had any work-performance issues, I've scored very well in my work reviews.

My Question:

What can I do to stop a guy who swings some weight in my company's ladder, but has no direct control over me or my team to stop bugging me without making a huge deal? I don't have anything to hide, it's just distracting and rude, and makes me feel paranoid, even though I have nothing to hide.

One of the biggest draws to me working here was during my interview when my boss told me, "I'm not a micromanager." And he's not. This just feels like I'm being silently micromanaged by someone who isn't even in my company.

Also I feel like I should note that the nosy CFO's company is not a tech company, they are a construction company. I believe this may affect his attitude somewhat.

UPDATE:

So I decided to get more passive-aggressively confrontational with all encounters of said CFO. I started giving very steady and deliberate eye contact with him whenever he would walk by and peer into my office. I found that the harder the eye contact, the quicker he would scurry off awkwardly. Since I started doing this, the total number of times he checks in has decreased. He'll still walk by my office fairly frequently, but I think that making it obvious that I noticed really helped the situation. If anything else comes from these interactions, I'll update here.

  • 6
    So does this CFO have anything to do with you or your work? Are they above your manager in anyway? – cheshire Jul 20 '17 at 20:02
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    @cheshire, nope; the only relation we have is the same physical building, and the same corporate structure in terms of what company owns our companies. Our companies are at the same level of the corporate structure. The CFO is not above my manager in any way. We operate entirely independently with the exception of them doing our HR. – Max Jul 20 '17 at 20:04
  • 14
    Have you asked your manager to talk to them? That should be your point of action. – Kaz Jul 20 '17 at 20:40
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    10-15 times a day? And he belittles others on allegedly wasted time? He must be fun at parties. Definitely approach your manager and lodge a complaint. – cbll Jul 21 '17 at 7:01
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    @Max - was pretty obvious, in the context, actually. I'm just conditioned to only process the letters W and F when there is a T in the middle, so I struggled with it. – PoloHoleSet Jul 25 '17 at 16:37
46

Apparently, you're beyond the point that ignoring his behaviour will help. Try polite, friendly confrontation instead. Everytime he stares at you, rise from your chair, approach him and ask him: "hi! is there something I can help you with?". That would probably result in a one of the following scenario's:

  • CFO asks a specific question: answer it.
  • CFO asks how your work is going, or says that he is checking up on you: give a truthful, but general answer about your work. Once you've answered him about the topic multiple times, raise the issue with your own boss. Ask him if you should continue to answer questions about your work, or that he (your boss) will have a chat with the CFO that his supervision is not required.
  • CFO scurries away and hopefully learns not to interrupt you, as every time he does that he'll face the same question.
  • 4
    I'd even up the ante with this approach. Stop your work, stand up, face him directly, ask him his business there, and remain standing silently until he leaves. – Xavier J Jul 20 '17 at 20:36
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    Oh, no - I'd use "hi! is there something I can help you with?" just as you suggested; and smile graciously. – Xavier J Jul 20 '17 at 20:42
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    Also, keep a private log of every interaction. – Dan Pichelman Jul 20 '17 at 21:23
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    I like this idea; fighting awkward interactions with even more awkward interactions. I'll post an update after a few days of doing this and let you know if the situation has subsided at all. Thanks! – Max Jul 21 '17 at 17:01
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    @JakobBuis Based on everything the OP has said, it's not their business. They're two separate companies that happen to be owned by the same parent company. – Anthony Grist Jul 22 '17 at 21:43
15

Talk to your boss about it and ask him to address this issue with the CFO.

It's affecting your efficiency at work - hence it should be in your boss's interest to stop this guy's behaviour.

It's also undermining your boss's authority in that it's his prerogative and duty to manage and control you and nobody else's.

Plus the behaviour sounds really creepy to me, like somebody testing the waters to see if he can get away with still weirder stuff in the future.

7

Talk to your boss about it but DO NOT ask him to address this issue with the CFO.

ONLY THEN try a polite, friendly confrontation with the CFO.

You should tell your boss what's happening, but in a way that doesn't require him to do any managing. Just ask him if he has tasked the neighbor CFO to keep an eye on you. Make it clear that you don't expect him to do anything about it.

Only then do you politely confront the neighbor CFO, and let him know that his attentions are distracting and unwelcome. Jakob Buis has indicated what to say.

Here's the reasoning behind that.

If you confront the neighbor CFO and politely demand that he stop investigating you without a reason, he may -- probably will -- invent a reason. Then he'll report whatever he made up to your boss. Of course it'll be nonsense, but your boss will have to deal with it, and it will remain in his mind as something you did that caught the attention of someone who was just walking by and happened to glance in.

So you want the first time you boss hears about any of this to be when he learns how nosy this neighbor CFO is. Then, if any mendacious complaints ever reach his ears, his first reaction will be to consider the source. And if the neighbor CFO actually never does make trouble, well, then it remains something you told your boss about and then took care of yourself.

2

Sorry if this is less than practical, but since he really has no say over anything in your company and is being an unwanted irritant, I'd suggest trolling him in a passive-aggressive fashion. You know how there are "screen-savers" that look like spreadsheets or other office busy-work, for slackers to disguise their slacking ways? I'm sure there are also "Pac-Man" or "Galaga" screen savers that emulate famous video games.

Make sure your screen saver is displaying some time when he walks through, and try not to visibly notice his eyeballs popping out of his head. When your boss comes to you about this work-productivity crisis, you show him it's simply your screen-saver, and say it never occurred to you that it would be an issue because you never thought someone would be spying on your screen like that. Then that CFO loses credibility as a busy-body.

Screensavers Planet: 39 Video Game Screensavers for Windows & Mac

  • 1
    "Why was your screensaver showing? Were you not working?" – Stephan Bijzitter Jul 24 '17 at 17:31
  • @StephanBijzitter - do you think that it's impossible to have work to do that does not involve constant interaction with the computer (reading reports and presentations that have been printed out, having a phone conversation relevant to work, doing work that requires pen/pencil to paper)? Also, many work environments want users to lock their "desktops" if they aren't constantly on, which would invoke screen saver, for security reasons. – PoloHoleSet Jul 24 '17 at 17:35
  • Of course, but it's a question that is going to be asked and you should have an answer ready. – Stephan Bijzitter Jul 24 '17 at 17:39
  • @StephanBijzitter - Then we've circled back to the spreadsheet screen saver!! – PoloHoleSet Jul 24 '17 at 17:56

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