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Retraining Your Fellow Employees

I would like some advice on how to deal with a strange problem in my workplace. I work in a large building and everyone always wants more space. Recently, another employee has decided that he would like our office space. So he comes into our office and has a good look around, without speaking to any of us, and when challenged about his presence, he says “oh, just looking” and then leaves.

Our office has computers in it that can access payroll and rosters and sensitive data, so we are pretty vigilant about who comes in and we lock the door if we go out. How can we politely tell these space grabbers to leave our office alone? 1028-15

I’m confused.   Are you shutting the office door while you are working?  And how can a fellow employee take possession of your office space without Human Resources or some authoritative entity approving it?

As for “siteseeing”, I have a simple solution to that.   I create a response that trains the person to not do the action.   When I used to coordinate preparation of meals in my church’s small kitchen, a common problem was men and male teenagers who would hang out doing nothing but getting under foot.  Annoyed me tono end.   I resolved the problem by by telling them, “This is a work zone and those in here work very hard.  If you are in my kitchen, I presume you are here to work so please do XXXXX.”    And “X” included chores such as emptying the trash cans and taking the bags to the dumpster, corralling them into washing dishes, busing tables, sweeping the floor.  I always had some chore in the back of my mind that I could inflict on them.   It eventually worked because they knew if they loitered in the kitchen, I was going to rope them into working.

You should promptly address Mr. Tourist Employee when he enters your office space with,  “Can I help you?”   If he’s not there on official work business of his own, you canpresue he’s there to help you do your work business and with a happy but firm tone of voice, tell him,   “I’m glad you are here to assist our hardworking staff in their duties!   There is a case of paper that needs to be put back in storage, please do that for us.”   Or send him off delivering interoffice mail, restocking your office bathroom toilet paper supply, lifting heavy things, emptying office trash cans, refilling the copier machine paper supply, getting everyone a cup of coffee/donuts,  reading reports, putting a new bottle of water in the dispenser, taking everyone’s lunch orders,  and on and on.  Get it?    You want to create an immediate negative association with visiting your office in his mind.

{ 69 comments }

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  • Otter November 3, 2015, 10:46 am

    Brilliant, admin! Will have to use that tactic. OP, don’t understand why they are allowed to wander in to such a sensitive area.

  • Lisa November 3, 2015, 10:57 am

    I would say that you tell him what you just told us.

    “I’m sorry, we allow very limited access to this room due to the sensitive nature of the data we handle. Therefore we can’t have people just passing through. Have a nice day!”

  • Jewel November 3, 2015, 11:18 am

    Or, just tell him to get the heck out. If he does it again, interrogate him on who he is and who is boss is, then call the boss to report his behavior.

  • Vermin8 November 3, 2015, 11:35 am

    Since this is work, be straightforward and firm.
    “Excuse me to you have business with us? Since we manage sensitive information, please do not enter unless you do.”
    And if he keeps it up, lock the door even while you are in there, if your supervisor is OK with that.

    • Green123 November 4, 2015, 3:29 am

      For fire safety reasons it is NOT a good idea to work in a locked office!

      No-one should need to lock themselves in – if a professional member of staff cannot obey an instruction to leave an office where sensitive financial and business information is kept and which he has no authority to view, he should be dealt with by Human Resources’ disciplinary policy, not by a locked door.

      • Vermin8 November 4, 2015, 8:19 am

        I worked in a locked office. One has to have a pass key to get in the main office then use the passkey again to get into the smaller office where my cubicle is located. In fact, one must use their passkey to get in AND OUT of the building itself (don’t need the passkey to get out of the office areas).

        But, yes, if this guy won’t get out of the office, HR should be called.

        • Browzer1 November 5, 2015, 12:30 am

          Having a key or passcard to get OUT of an office or building is completely illegal.

          If your employer is doing this, anonymously notify your local Fire Department.

          This is a horrendous safety violation.

          • HelenB November 5, 2015, 9:27 am

            We have a passcard to activate the revolving doors at the employee entrance. If the evacuation alarm goes off, the partitions in the revolving doors flatten out to make exits. If there is a different emergency or if the alarms haven’t gone off yet, people can go out the Accessibility door (regular door with a push bar to open out). Alarms will go off at that point, but nothing is locking people into the building.

          • mark November 5, 2015, 10:02 am

            In some places the alarm will go off if you don’t card out, but you still can exit. Certain high security areas can be allowed more restrictions, but this is very unusual.

      • Chigrrl November 4, 2015, 8:51 am

        The description of the locking doors seems off to me. It’s pretty standard to have automatically locking doors that are accessible via a security card. Card access is generally granted based on where employees actually need to be for their job function. It’s absolutely unheard off to have a “large” building where access isn’t somehow managed using basic technology. A locked door situation as described (or assumed) would not pass a fire inspection, period.

        • Vermin8 November 4, 2015, 9:46 am

          I didn’t see a description of the locked doors. There are several different types, some electronically managed , some not.

        • Vermin8 November 4, 2015, 9:59 am

          I better clarify: when I said passkey I meant passcard, ie an electronically coded card that will open a locked door.

          • Livvy17 November 4, 2015, 11:15 am

            Seriously, if you have to use a passkey to get OUT of any location, that’s a serious safety issue.

          • AnaMaria November 4, 2015, 11:25 am

            I think these kinds of doors would automatically unlock if the fire alarms go off. They can also be programmed to only let certain employees in at certain hours (i.e. the night custodian’s card will work when their shift begins). If the OP is working with such sensitive material, it seems a given that they should have some sort of lock system in place- it’s 2015, after all.

        • Willynilly November 4, 2015, 2:34 pm

          Many doorknob locks are one way, which is to say they are locked on the outside, but simply turning the knob on the inside opens the door. So not a fire hazzard, as people in the room can immediately exit exactly the same as they would through any closed door.

          • AnaMaria November 5, 2015, 11:11 am

            If someone is trapped in the room during a fire, though, it makes it harder for rescue workers to get in.

      • Tracy W November 5, 2015, 1:00 am

        Every office I have worked in with locked doors it is set up so when the fire alarm goes off the doors automatically unlock for exiting (I don’t know about for entry.)

  • Chris November 3, 2015, 11:41 am

    I’m going to have to disagree with the admin on this as I see the potential for problems.

    If the tourist is part of the submitter’s company, attempting to issue directions like this could create problems that are HR responsibilities. My experience in larger corporations is that you end up stepping on toes if you don’t go through proper chain of command channels. As soon as a manager finds out someone, anyone, who is lateral or below them has been issuing directives to their employees they raise a fuss. “Distracting” his employee from his paid job. Interoffice deliveries, refilling copier’s paper and toner, and other miscellaneous tasks would be interfering with a third person’s job which may result in their productivity requirements being unmet. Lastly, in my experience, larger companies have typically outsourced janitorial responsibilities. So restocking paper towels and toilet tissue falls to another company. With few exceptions no one inside the submitter’s company would have access to those supplies in this scenario. In extreme cases attempting to do so rather than reporting it to the janitorial company would be a breach of contract. All around no good.

    If the tourist is from outside the submitter’s company (pre-supposing that both companies are leasing office space in a building) then asking him to do tasks for them is worse as, in the US at least, it would violate labor laws. Those tasks are work and he must be compensated for it.

    The appropriate thing to do is approach either HR or building management through the correct channels. If he’s an employee in the same organization then get HR involved to explain to him that the space is off-limits to unauthorized personnel, which is is not. If he is outside the submitter’s organization then approach the building manager to explain that other tenants are being disruptive. Explain that you deal with sensitive information and that he should not be coming in and that your discrete hints to this nature are being ignored.

    In either case in-between the time of the report and action taken by the necessary party, address his presence in the office immediately and without friendliness. Ask him in a coldly professional tone as soon as he enters if you can help him. Once he says anything that can be reasonably construed as “no” politely inform him that you are busy and require as few distractions as possible and to “please be on your way & have a good day.” This clear dismissal will make it known to him that he in unwelcome. The coldness of it will, hopefully, discourage him from returning. The professional nature will ensure that you cannot be censured.

    • Lex November 4, 2015, 4:05 am

      This post is basically on the nose in every way.

      It is not clear from the OP whether this ‘Tourist’ is a colleague but the overall tone of the post suggests he is.

      My interpretation of the OP is that the poster and her colleagues share a relatively ‘private’ space in the office – perhaps a converted meeting room or a corner that has been cordoned off with floor to ceiling partitions and doors, and their colleague, ‘Tourist’, is unhappy with his location in the office and wants to move into this space. Either WITH the poster and her colleagues or displacing them elsewhere, and keeps coming into the space and ‘looking around’ (although to what end I can’t work out).

      If this colleague is not a member of the posters team, it is unlikely an authority figure will sanction a move into this space unless ‘Tourist’ is someone important (in which case, Poster, sadly office politics will out and you will likely be shunted out in favour of appeasing Tourist as soon as ‘Tourist’ is able to make his case to whoever has enough power to make it happen). If ‘Tourist’ is simply another colleague at a same or similar hierarchical level, they have no power to make decisions about office space so a word with his line manager would be the most appropriate course of action here – perhaps mention his frequent visits and ask the line manager if he needs your ‘help’ with something and ask him to curtail the visits to work related occasions? If Tourist was powerful enough to authorise a move, he would have done it already.

      I suspect there is a bit of a stalemate situation going on here because Tourist won’t mention his desire to move (I’m curious how you know this, btw) in case someone important says ‘Uh, NO’, but in bringing it up yourselves you are taking the risk that it will initiate a discussion on office arrangements and potentially wind up with an office reorganisation.

      I don’t think locking office doors is the right approach though, since this would probably present a fire hazard and most offices stipulate that employees be approachable unless in a designated meeting.

      Of course instead of beating around the bush, you could just come right out and ask him what he hopes to accomplish with the ‘just looking around’ and make the point that his visits are disruptive to your work and you’d prefer it if he could limit his visits to work-related occasions.

      Then again he might be trying to find a way to hit on one of your colleagues – you never know…

      • The Elf November 4, 2015, 8:52 am

        I agree. “Busy work” has the potential to get the office dwellers in trouble.

  • Gabriele November 3, 2015, 12:07 pm

    You say ‘sensitive’, I’d say ‘confidential’….as an employee I certainly wouldn’t want just anyone able to have even limited access to my information.
    I would suggest a discreet small sign stating ‘Because of the nature of some of the data we handle in this office, please contact us first by email if you have any questions. We respect everyone’s privacy and ask that you do the same. Thank you’
    It sounds like you’re talking about people who are looking for an office with just a little more space than is currently being used (in the eyes of the searchers) and thus up for grabs.
    And if questioned, make reference to how it affects you when you read about hackers getting access to private information and you NEVER want to contribute to a situation where something like that could happen around you. Perhaps arranging the furniture so the file cabinets (especially if the lower height ones) could enclose space and make them inaccessible to anyone just walking in… (‘circle the wagons!’).
    You might reinforce the concept of privacy by not using the speakerphone (I don’t like them anyway) and if someone comes in and you’re on the phone, stop talking immediately–tell the person ‘please hold’ and then inform the visitor that the call, while a business call, is private in nature and if they have business with you, please send an email first. Or if you see someone coming, pick up the phone and have the ‘private conversation’ up to the point the person enters…and use all the proper buzz words…as if you’re talking to someone further up the chain of command. And of course you don’t name names.
    If you can find an article on privacy and security measures any office can implement, print it out and put it in your inbox…and who knows, you might find some tips that would actually make your office safer for all concerned and beneficial to the company!
    It’s not paranoia, it’s just good planning…for all the money spent on computer security, keeping the physical data secure is important too.

    good luck!

    • Daniotra November 3, 2015, 7:54 pm

      I agree with this as a temporary solution. Long term, talk to facilities and ask for appropriate signage and see if you can secure the area (keyed or badge access for only employees who are part of Payroll). The payroll department at my company had half & half doors added to their area. This allows them to open the top section for airflow, while having the bottom closed to keep unauthorized people out of the area.

      In large corporations, this type of juggling of locations happens all the time. Admin’s response is great for volunteers or family, but would be frowned upon in a lot of companies. For someone that ignored the signage, you should speak up and state that this is a sensitive area and only authorized employees are allowed. If the person ignores you, you can go to management or facilities/security for further assistance.

    • The Elf November 4, 2015, 8:51 am

      “Sensitive” is actually a technical term when it comes to data management. It’s appropriate.

  • TaterTot November 3, 2015, 12:09 pm

    OP, since your computers contain sensitive data, I’m glad you lock the door when you go out. However, it doesn’t sound like you are otherwise vigilant about who comes into your office since some random employee was able to come in and have a good look around without immediately being challenged.

    I also don’t understand how an employee who wants the office space that others are already occupying means that the employee thinks he/she is entitled to it. Like admin said, within most companies, there is some senior-level person or management division that allocates office space according to employee/department needs.

  • AnaMaria November 3, 2015, 12:12 pm

    I like the admin’s suggestion if the employee is a subordinate or equal- if they have no good reason to be in the office but are “above” the OP, though, it can be awkward. As a teacher, I currently have to move from classroom to classroom (our building doesn’t have enough space, so I into other teachers’ rooms during their prep period). Most teachers are good at quietly working at their desks or discreetly working around my students, but there are a few who will just sit and watch me teach- it creeps me out, and it makes it more stressful for the students if they feel like another adult is just sitting there watching them. These are not administrators or mentor teachers who are authorized to observe me and give me feedback- but I also do not have authority to “put them to work” during their prep time, especially in front of the students. In that situation, I find that the best solution is just to keep teaching and ignore the creepy-observer. If something confidential comes up, I’m not shy about blocking it from the unwelcome-observer’s view. Yes, it’s awkward- but if they don’t want to be made to feel awkward, they should stop staring me down while I’m teaching!

    • Becca November 4, 2015, 1:52 pm

      Oh goodness, now I see a whole new angle to the over crowded school rooms when you talk about your classroom not even being in one spot 🙁

      I thank you for this pov though, it’s good knowledge for when those “schools have enough funding!” folks try to start up with me, grrr!

      • AnaMaria November 5, 2015, 11:14 am

        Yes, it makes my job and my colleagues jobs very challenging! I have to use a science room one hour and the science teacher cannot set up for labs while I’m there. I cannot pre-write things on the board or use many manipulatives because I can’t easily transport things from room to room. My kids are worth it all, though!

        • Becca November 5, 2015, 1:12 pm

          It warms my heart to know that there are still teachers out there who think like you do. My teachers growing up meant the world to me, my high school bio teacher even worked as my first job reference because I was her TA for 3 years in addition to taking her classes.

          Thank you for all you do, youre making an impression on countless lives and are truly selfless in an environment that’s less than desirable (to put it kindly, as a supporter of education, my words off ehell are much harsher! )

  • mark November 3, 2015, 12:18 pm

    Do you have access cards for your office? If so can you ask security to restrict access to the office to the people who need access? For instance I can’t go into the server room where I work.

    If not don’t be afraid to challenge them and send them on their way.

    • Michelle November 4, 2015, 8:43 am

      This is how it works at my employer as well. I have no reason to be in collections storage, so my badge doesn’t open that door.
      The main hallway to admin is also the hallway to the banquet area, which non-employees have access to. For security purposes, large electronically locked doors with “Staff Only” were installed. If you don’t have a company issued badge with the proper permissions, you don’t get through that door. There is a camera and speakerphone in case someone forgets their badge or a client needs to be buzzed in by Security.
      Those locked doors were very useful last week when a salesman would not take an employee’s word that a certain staff member was not on site and he proceeded to the doors and banged on them, demanding to be let in to check the staff members office. He got escorted out of the building by Security.

      • Calli Arcale November 4, 2015, 1:27 pm

        Yikes! Talk about an overly aggressive salesman. I would’ve loved to have seen the look on his face when Security showed up. 😉 You have to wonder what’s going through his mind — I mean, how did he think that would improve the chances for a sale?

        We also have badged access. Most doors open with the basic employee badge, but many of the labs require elevated permissions so that they can be restricted to people who have had the required electrostatic discharge training, to avoid damage to our equipment. And some areas are more restricted still, depending on what’s in there. Several areas have locking doors that they lock when nobody’s in the area.

  • rubies November 3, 2015, 12:21 pm

    First, password-protect those computers. Second, put up a sign saying only authorized persons are permitted in the area. When he shows up, say the area is only for authorized people, and tell him to go. Document days and times he comes in and send it up the chain to management or HR.

  • JD November 3, 2015, 12:58 pm

    First off, if you have confidential information, I’d let Mr. Just Looking know you have a need-to-know basis for “visitors”, and would ask him what he needs. And I’d stop work, lock my screen, and look purposefully at him when I said it. I think all of the people in OP’s office should do the same. I don’t think I’d even give him a task; I’d make it clear that this office requires privacy, not onlookers. I may have people’s salaries, etc., on my screen when folks just sail in, and I politely let them know I need privacy and will get to them in a few minutes. I have a door, but no lock, so I have to watch for people when I have sensitive stuff up on my screen.
    I worked for a contracting firm that served a major client at the client’s plant for over 40 years. I myself had over 20 years at that site working for the contracting firm. We worked alongside the client’s employees like fellow employees all those years. Then one foul day, the plant was sold, and the new owners wanted nothing to do with the company I worked for. We were given six months to get out of their offices and off the site entirely. As the end drew near, a very few of the client’s employees, some who had known us for decades, decided to go check out our offices and see what furnishings and other goodies they could pick out for their offices. They sailed into our offices, loudly discussed what they wanted to take, and talked over my coworkers’ heads, even leaving sticky notes on the furniture with their names on it and taking anything they could convince the occupant to give them right then. When they got to my office and asked if they could have this and that, I calmly said as I worked, “I’m sorry, I’m still using it and can’t let you have it now.” Then I turned to them with a slight smile and said, “Please, let the body get cold before you start picking it over.” That got nervous laughter in return, and “Oh, we’re not pushing you, sorry, we just wondered… well, we’ll come back later we guess….” and they didn’t come back until I was gone. I was shocked that it worked, honestly. The idea of them circling our offices like vultures, not even waiting for us to be gone, rubbed salt in the wound of our being forced out. It really rankled.

    • Jocelyn November 4, 2015, 9:54 am

      I know this situation! I had people in my office, measuring it for their furniture. (we had an open-door policy, so they just walked in and ignored me at my desk.) We had upper administrators who were deciding they would get the space, before we were officially notified we were moving, much less assigned new office space! After it all got assigned, the new occupants of our office had their furniture delivered before we moved out. Yes, we were supposed to move out around their new furniture. We met the trucks and told them that they could pile everything into an empty office and a storeroom, but we would NOT be responsible for them putting it into our offices before our movers had moved our furniture out. We could just imagine being told we were going to replace any furniture that was dented or scratched as ours was maneuvered out the door.

      • penguin tummy November 7, 2015, 8:22 am

        OP here, that is kind of what I was expecting to happen one day! We only have a small office, it’s a contained room by itself but there are only 6 of us there maximum. The person who came to have a look around unfortunately is another senior employee but different department so we don’t have the same manager. Many people drop in to see us about various things, so we just assumed he was there to talk to someone! I’d love to give him a job to do next time he comes sightseeing! In the mean time we will probably keep the door closed (although it gets a bit stuffy then) to keep out the unwanted tourists

  • The Elf November 3, 2015, 1:02 pm

    This sounds like the perfect thing to take to your mutual boss.

    As a perpetual cube farm dweller, whose cube has shrunk over the years, I get the space thing. If there is any rumor about redesign or shuffling the office or doling out any scrap of space, everyone goes into a frenzy. But he can look from the outside, and more than once shouldn’t be necessary anyway.

    You are dealing with sensitive information, which necessitates security procedures such as locking the door when no one is in the office. I’d start taking it a step further and closing the door perpetually. When he opens the door, you say “Unless you are here for a payroll issue, please do not disturb us.”

  • just me November 3, 2015, 1:44 pm

    Or just tell him he can’t be in there because of company policy. “I’m sorry, we can’t have unescorted guests around. You’ll need to leave.” Repeat as necessary. Call building security if needed. Honestly, of all the office drama that could happen, this seems fairly easy to resolve.

  • Devin November 3, 2015, 2:19 pm

    I used to have this problem in my office as well. My office, which had a door, but we were encouraged to keep them at least partially open when we were present, was one of the few offices with windows on that side of the building. People who officed in the cubicles without windows would pop their heads (and/or bodies) into my office to ‘check the weather’. I officed alone, so I enjoyed the occasional interaction with my co-workers. One person was more of a hooverer, which is annoying, but I couldn’t ask one person to leave and not the others, and I sympathized because they had no natural sun light in their area.
    Recently, one of the executives decided he wanted the windowed office and there wasn’t anything my supervisor could do. Now I’m back in my old office, which has no windows, and no one stopping by to socialize. Unless this person is in a position to take over your space, I wouldn’t worry about it. If you are worried about confidential information, get the HR supervisor involved (since it sounds like you might work in HR yourself).

  • lkb November 3, 2015, 2:23 pm

    Just wondering if the employee in question was really “site seeing” in an effort to get that spot rather than trying to get a look at that sensitive data. You never know in this day and age. Do whatever you can to keep that data safe, including going up the chain of command.

    • Calli Arcale November 4, 2015, 1:29 pm

      This was my first thought also. Never mind the rude territorialism he was displaying; his response set of all kinds of red flags in my mind. HR data? Is he trying to figure out how much other employees are being paid, or who is soon to be laid off, or anything like that?

  • Karen L November 3, 2015, 2:30 pm

    Oh, this is brilliant!

  • Calli Arcale November 3, 2015, 2:42 pm

    I also work in a business where the contents of the computer screens could be sensitive. I lock my screen any time I’m away, even for a minute, because it’s a good habit to be in. A single infiltrator could cause considerable damage, and while our building is controlled access, a) any system can be breached, and b) even a vetted employee can receive an offer they can’t refuse.

    Someone walking around like that in my office I would not rope into helping, because I would not have the authority to do so. We all direct-charge to our contracts, and although we can use discretion if we need someone else’s help on something, in general we shouldn’t be charging without the program manager having approved it. So I could not put a lookie-loo to work in any meaningful way.

    What I *could* do, and *should* so, is report his suspicious behavior. His manager needs to know that he is not only wasting his own time, but also impacting the productivity of other employees. And “just looking” is a pretty suspicious thing to say in a room with sensitive data. I would probably also notify Security. Whether or not to do that obviously depends on where you work and whether or not you have any mandatory reporting requirements.

    • essie November 4, 2015, 6:05 am

      I don’t think Admin was suggesting giving the “tourist” meaningful work to do, just busy work: emptying trash cans, watering plants, bringing in coffee and doughnuts, delivering lunch orders, sharpening a gross of pencils…

      • Chigrrl November 4, 2015, 12:46 pm

        But…that makes no sense. A) What if this person is a high-level employee who OP would not want to offend? People are often displaced at executive whim to provide premium space to higher-ups. B) If there is sensitive information in the area, why would it be OK to encourage this person to hang around doing menial tasks? I am still not sure if Admin was being facetious.

      • Calli Arcale November 4, 2015, 1:14 pm

        Where I work, even that would count. We’re government contractors, so the auditing is pretty tight. If someone gives you work, the traditional response is “what’s the charge number?” since if you bill that time to a different contract you’ve just technically committed a federal offense. (Not that it would likely go to an actual court; the worst that could happen is that the company could get fined, and they’ll only bother if it’s a big amount. But little stuff adds up, and a manager whose budget is vanishing down non-program-related expenses is not going to be happy about it.)

        Also, stuff like emptying trash cans is not an allowable program expense, which gets back to that technically-a-federal-crime business. That kind of thing is an overhead expense, and has to be paid by the company. Which means it comes straight out of profits, so you can bet they’re even more vigilant about that. So I *really* can’t give that sort of work to a random person. His direct manager would have to authorize it. I’m not even kidding.

        Where I used to work, for a banking institution, that would’ve been totally fine. In the commercial world, you can usually do that sort of thing. My husband recently moved into the commercial world, and he said it took months before the weirdness of not having to account for his time to the nearest tenth of an hour wore off. So my point is just that while this is a valid strategy in many offices, it isn’t in all of them. Government contracting is weird that way.

        • Chigrrl November 5, 2015, 2:17 pm

          I work in banking and it’s pretty standard in my particular role as an analyst to do billable hours. Same for finance and insurance, this is not unique to the govt. sector.

  • NostalgicGal November 3, 2015, 3:15 pm

    A bunch of those can get you in worse with HR or higher ups.

    Spouse worked at a place were some things had to be secured and they always had lower management that wanted to grab all the corner meeting rooms for offices. He had a bunch of equipment the entire complex accessed through Cat5 and passwords. People that had no reason to be near there would go in there past the strung up signs about stay out this means you unless escorted by (hubby and or his two directly up line bosses). They just placed a webcam and a foot switch that looked through a sign and took EVERYONE’s lanyard ID pic. If the next pic wasn’t of someone authorized to escort you, HR got asked and authorized security to be sent.

    Everyone learned to leave that room alone. They fired a few of them.
    (one thought the room was just an old storage junk room and was going to clear all that old crap out of there and use it for an office…. and would have shut the place down had he started pulling plugs)

  • Cat November 3, 2015, 5:16 pm

    I wonder what his job description is that he can wander the building, just looking around, without someone noticing that he is not at his desk and is not working. It sounds as if he is just wandering around like Marley’s Ghost.
    Is there no one in your office who is in charge and can ask him who he is and why he is there? Does he have the authority to take over an office because he wants the space? I think I’d inquire from my boss who the man is and why he is coming into my office space when he does not work in my office.

    • Tracy P November 4, 2015, 8:43 am

      Depending on the job, it’s not unusual. I’m an engineer and there are many of us that you rarely find at our desks, yet this is a desk job. And since there are so many projects going on at the same time, it’s hard to know who is working on what and does and does not belong.

      • Cat November 4, 2015, 10:12 am

        That makes perfect sense if your work requires you to conference with other engineers. This fellow seems to be wandering around aimlessly. If he is using his time to wander, it does not sound like he is producing any work at all. It smacks of those glorious college days when one is assigned a team project and one team member decides that the others can do the work and just puts his/her name on the finished product.
        I had a man in my office who loved to come into my area and make mistakes which he would then blame on me. It drove me nuts.

    • KarenK November 4, 2015, 9:10 am

      I venture to say that in many places, workers are not watched that closely. I know that I’m not.

      Occasionally, people will come in and check out my space. The difference is, I know who they are and why they’re here. I reside in central reception area (although I rarely actually receive anyone – LOL) with four satellite offices opening off of the central area. Luckily, we have actual names on the office doors, so it’s very apparent that we are full up. We used to have two rooms down another corridor, but those spaces were usurped.

  • Daphne November 4, 2015, 12:30 am

    I think the problem here OP, is you are trying to be “polite” about telling an intruder to leave. Since you say there is sensitive information where this guy is snooping, I’m not sure if being polite is in your best interest. I would just tell him to get out please, and to stop wandering around in your office. Say “please stop loitering in here, and leave right now. You have no business being in here.” Since you’ve had to confront him more that once about it, the guy sounds like somebody who needs that type of bluntness, so I wouldn’t worry about offending him.

    And a little OT, what IS IT about men just hanging around in the kitchen while people are trying to cook? It’s so annoying. I mean, where are they when dishes need to be done, or floors need to be mopped?
    I love the idea of putting them to work! Next time I’m going to hand him a bottle of windex and point him towards the cabinets that AREN’T directly in front of the stove, fridge or sink (where the lurkers seem to want to hang-out) and say “hey bud, you got time to lean, you got time to clean!”. Thanks for the great idea, admin!

    • anonymous November 6, 2015, 6:31 pm

      Can’t speak for all men, but the men in my family are the ‘quality control’ team in that they’re always wanting just a taste of something 🙂

      • Daphne November 7, 2015, 3:34 pm

        That’s what they’re hoping for isn’t it? Especially when bacon is involved!

  • Marozia November 4, 2015, 2:56 am

    One thing I usually do is shut down the windows of my computer and just sit there with my arms crossed looking at the person. If they ask me ‘What are you looking at?’ my response is ‘I’m waiting for you to go so I can resume working.’ One said ‘That’s OK, keep working.’ My response; ‘I’m alright, I’ll wait till you’re finished and start.’ Then proceed to make myself comfortable with a book to read.

  • Sarah November 4, 2015, 5:54 am

    Nice try to get someone who’s loitering to work for you, but if someone tried that on me I would answer with “I don’t don’t work for you so don’t try to give me orders.” Unless you can prove it’s your private space, as a company employee, he may have the right to wander in, whether you like it or not.

    • Green123 November 4, 2015, 8:15 am

      I think that applies under normal circumstances, but as the OP works in an office that contains sensitive / confidential information to which the loiterer has no business, I think the OP’s space IS (or needs to be) a private one.

  • keloe November 4, 2015, 6:36 am

    Last time I worked in a corporation, there were very strict regulations about people going into departments that handled sensitive information. These departments had lockable doors (everyone else was in open space) and while you could go in if you had some business in there and the employees were inside, you were never encouraged to hang around and just chat, sit around waiting for the person you needed, if he or she wasn’t there, or go around to look at people’s computer screens, unless specifically invited to do so. Also, any decisions considering relocation of offices etc. were made by HR and facility management combined, subject to the top management approval. There was no way anyone would just go around “sightseeing” in there.

    To me the best way would be to ask HR to issue some sort of a company-wide policy regarding space where sensitive information is being processed. That way you can deal with all unnecessary visitors. Ordering them about sounds like fun way to do it, but it might not be advisable if the person happens to be higher-ranking.

  • Chigrrl November 4, 2015, 9:14 am

    Admin’s response does not reflect a working knowledge of how offices work. You can’t just invite some interloper in (particularly when people are working with sensitive data) and ask them to pitch in. “Hi, I don’t know you, but have a seat here and help me work on payroll.” Work is not a church picnic, so I’m not sure if perhaps this was a joke and I’m not caffeinated enough to get it?

    This is really not a complicated problem. A) If a person is working with sensitive data, their company should lock down access to the area using a security access card. B) Presuming this is the case (because it’s 2015 and access cards have been around for decades), if the gentleman comes into the area by following in an authorized employee or something, OP can use her grown up words to advise the visitor that the area is restricted and ask if they may be able to direct said visitor to their intended destination. C) I can’t imagine the visitor checking out the space comes down there every day just to visit his dream space, so my guess is this is a one time area assessment to determine if the spot would work for his needs. This happens all. the. time. in large offices.
    My guess is the OP is more worried about losing a premium spot to a higher up than ongoing security breaches by the space snatcher. I’ve personally been the space snatcher through no choice of my own, and yes, sometimes you have to visit a potential space to ensure that it will be sufficient for your work group and function. In fact, I think I have my own Ehell story to submit regarding the retaliatory behavior of the people whose open space my group had to snatch who seemed to think that we purposely pirated their premium unused space just to enrage them.

    • admin November 18, 2015, 12:47 am

      Chigrrl’s response does not reflect a working knowledge of Jeanne’s work experiences over 4 decades. Please note that I did not advocate putting the interloper to work on sensitive data but rather to collect trash, run errands and deliver messages, carry heavy boxes, get coffee or lunch orders, sort mail, etc.

  • Yet Another Laura November 4, 2015, 11:10 am

    Challenge them. Don’t legitimize their presence in a restricted area.

    Social engineers are pros at worming their way into places and as soon as you start giving them work to do, they’ll leap all over it as an incoming salvo toward gaining enough of your trust so you don’t notice them looking too closely at post-it notes under keyboards or notices on the wall. You see them, you’ve gotten used to seeing them, that’s what they want. As soon as they stop returning to help you, they’ve got what they want. It may be the big boss’ direct line or possibly someone’s password or even a discarded copy of an org chart.

  • InTheEther November 4, 2015, 1:52 pm

    Add me to those saying to inform HR.

    Don’t try to be nice and polite with the guy. Next time he wanders in and you get through the usual routine of “Hey, do you need anything?” “No, I’m just looking around.”, follow that up with, “Well, you can’t. We’re working with private information , if you don’t have an actual reason to be here you need to leave.” Then every time you see him walk in from that point LOUDLY call out “Bob, if you don’t have a work reason to be here you need to turn back around.” If at anytime he gets belligerent inform him that you HAVE to report him to higher up or security if he continues hanging around (big point here on covering your own rear end is to make it clear that HIS actions are forcing you to do so). And then go through with it if he makes you.

    As I understood it from the post the issue of sensitive info is the main reason you’re writing in, besides his behavior just being annoying. I’m sure other people in the co wouldn’t be happy to hear he’s regularly wandering in to look around when all there is to see is their payroll info.

  • MollyMonster November 4, 2015, 3:57 pm

    Honestly, it seems like the only solution is to go to your boss and ask what the deal is and what your response to him should be. Yeah, people always want more space but unless they are part of the space planning team, or moves are imminent, there is no need for him to be wandering around your area. You can also confront him next time he comes by (why is he coming by frequently? So weird.) and tell him that he needs to go see your boss if he wants access to the area.

  • Angel November 4, 2015, 8:31 pm

    Why didn’t the OP just tell the offender to LEAVE?? Seriously unless he works in that department or has business with someone who does–he doesn’t belong there. We used to have issues with customers trying to come behind the counter so we actually installed swinging gates. So to get behind the counter the customer has to open the gate. The extra step seems to be enough to keep them out. We also have a big sign that says EMPLOYEES ONLY but that is usually not much deterant.

  • knitwicca November 5, 2015, 9:14 am

    I work on a government installation. Everyone who enters the site has already been cleared at some level of security.
    However, I deal with a lot of sensitive, secret or ITAR information. In order to get to my cubicle, one must walk through another which contains four co-workers. I insist that my desk is situated so that anyone entering my cubicle sees the back of my monitor. I am vigilant about keeping the top of my desk clear of paperwork unless it is in use at that moment.
    We are encouraged to interact in a casual manner to keep a cohesive team. It bothers co-workers when they enter my area to chat and I immediately close the window I am using. I hear “I have a security clearance, too.”
    What they fail to understand is that their clearance is inadequate to have the slightest chance to see what I work on some days.
    I understand the OP’s frustration with Tourist just wandering in to “look around”. I have been known to go to our lead and say “I know you want us to be a friendly, cohesive unit but I am working on XYZ and cannot have people wandering into my cube.” His response was to block the doorway with a sign saying “Please do not enter”. When I am available for “team morale boosting” (i.e. idle chit-chat), I turn the sign over to show “Welcome to my world”

    Anyone who tries to by-pass the “Please do not enter” sign will be pointedly glared at while I motion to another sign immediately in front of that person.
    “Science Fiction and Fantasy has traditionally held important messages vital to the future of man. Such as….
    Whatever you do, don’t p!ss off the redhead.”

    • The Elf November 5, 2015, 12:11 pm

      If they have clearances, then surely they’ve learned that it is about one’s NEED to know. If they have no need to know, they don’t get to know.

  • Ms T November 5, 2015, 7:54 pm

    We use a required sign-in. There’s a clip board and form beside the doorway. The form includes name, employee number, reason for visit, date, time of arrival, time of leaving, and escort (aka, a person who works in the room, who essentially ‘signs them in’ and keeps an eye of them for their visit).
    Anyone who enters the room is IMMEDIATELY (and the speed does seem to be important) told to begin filling out the form.
    “Just looking”? “Okay, put that as your reason for visit. Remember to get the time correct!”
    And if they say never mind, and turn to leave again, we chase them and say we still need their details for our register – “Don’t worry, we’ll just say that your reason for visit was incorrect room”.

    Just writing making people write this down goes waves into making them understand this is a special space with different rules, and you need to Respect that. And if there is an issue; well, you know who of the people who don’t work in the room were there, and at what time.

  • penguin tummy November 7, 2015, 8:28 am

    OP here, so interesting to see what people think! Tourist hasn’t come back again, but I have heard that other units have been moved out of their space in favour of someone else. It’s awkward because many people drop in for help with various issues, so we all assumed he was there to see someone. I would love to give him a job! Unfortunately he is a senior employee from a different department so we don’t have the same managers. Hopefully he got the hint! We keep our door closed often but it gets quite stuffy so we like to have the opportunity to keep it open.

  • Jade November 10, 2015, 9:17 pm

    My take on this is that if I were this person’s manager I would want to know that they were ‘wandering about’ and ‘touring’ other departments during working hours as clearly this person needs their task list checked and updated to ensure everything on it is being done in a timely manner and if so and they have unproductive spare time on their hands, to look at what other tasks can be allocated to them to ensure the entire department functions in a smooth and efficient manner.

    In short; at work a person, particularly a person in the kind of position the OP describes should not have time to make leisurely inspections of other departments, he should have too much to do in his own department and, if he does not, his manager needs to look at why not.

    I would let it be known up the chain that you have concerns about ‘Tourist’ spending so much time in your work space given the confidential information you work with and see what comes of it.