View Full Version : Coworker reading over my shoulder!

11-28-2007, 10:43 PM
So I'm on lunch, with my laptop, at a restaurant, writing. I'm cruising along, minding my own business, comfy at my favorite Chinese place, sipping tea and eating, and generally happy to be away from work for an hour.

"What are you writing about?" In a tone of utter shock.

Yup. It's a coworker, who'd snuck up behind me (certainly deliberately, since she had to contort herself to see the screen) to see what I was working on. I don't share my writing with my coworkers, and, in fact, rarely even mention it. I've had issues in the past with this. I pretty much keep my private life and my work life separate.

This particular woman is just nosy, and a big gossip. I'm sure the entire office will know within a few hours that I was writing a smutty romance scene. I'm not sure how much of an eyeful she got, but oye.

Worse, it's fanfic.

Bright side, it's fanfic for a series that she probably didn't recognize, given she was about two when it aired. I hope.


I need to find a nice place to eat farther from the office.

-- Leva

11-28-2007, 10:49 PM
What a clueless, classless woman!

Deny everything.

11-28-2007, 10:51 PM




11-29-2007, 12:15 AM
What an ass. I'm really not fond of people in general because of things like this. I'm writing words, thanks. My mom does the same thing. Granted it's not that I'm not fond of her but for the love of Christ, I'm not 12. I hate that. I guess privacy is overrated. I probably would have slapped her. Hey, you're not on company time. I'm sure they could care less what happens off the clock.

11-29-2007, 12:43 AM
Well, if she reads over your shoulder off-property, she's merely rude. If she talks about what she read on-property, after lunch, she might be breaking rules.

11-29-2007, 12:45 AM
My reaction to anyone caught reading over my shoulder: Instant screaming, wailing, and borderline hyperventilation.

Needless to say most people never do it again.

Soccer Mom
11-29-2007, 01:09 AM
What a troll!

11-29-2007, 01:12 AM
If she does it again, just look her right in the eye and tell her it's autobiographical. :D

Then throw your coffee at her.

Kate Thornton
11-29-2007, 03:05 AM
This type of privacy-invasion always irritates me.

I'm always polite to people who are genuinely interested (either in me or the work) but nosy gossip hounds from work who invade my sacred - and limited - lunch time recieve no such consideration.

A firm "None of your business" is always a good retort to this type of idiocy, as is "Get out of my face, you moron, I'm on my lunch hour!" And so is "Eat $h!t and die, you nosy cow!" if you want to escalate it.

But rude dimwits like this rarely get the picture - you have to be as direct as possible.

11-29-2007, 03:42 AM
Oh, I have to be nice, alas. This was not someone I could snark at, at will. Office politics type thing. I simply shut the laptop and told her, "A story." And did my best Ice-Queen impression. I was trying not to be snarlingly rude.

But it gets better.

She asked me again, on the way into the office, what I was writing. She was in the parking lot with a couple of other coworkers. Conversation went something like this:

Gossip Girl: "So what were you writing, again?"
Me, in my driest tone: "The good bits of an x-rated romance."
Other Coworker: "Right on! Are you going to share?"
Me: "Only if you're very good. Gotta go, I'm running late."

*shrug* There is no point in denying stuff like this; it just fuels the gossip. I'd rather the subject not come up at all, but if it does, being cheerfully matter of fact leaves the gossips completely off-balance.

(And sunna7core, I WISH I'd thought to say, "it's autobiographical ..." I'll have to remember that line.)

-- Leva

11-29-2007, 03:44 AM
If someone had asked me what I was writing I'd reply, "None of your business."

They invade my privacy, they've got no right to be spoken to politely.

11-29-2007, 03:45 AM
I think my answer to the question: "What are you writing?"

would be

"Oh, I'm just putting together a nasty device that will instantly taze anyone who sneaks up behind people and reads over their shoulder. Stick around, and you can help me test it."

11-29-2007, 03:49 AM
Not something I'd get upset about, personally, I'd just have let 'em read to their nosy little heart's content, but I can see as how it's a rude privacy infringement. I'd maybe start an office toilet rumor, "Be careful what you've got on your screen, she sneaks up on you and looks over your shoulder."


Marian Perera
11-29-2007, 04:17 AM
When I read the title, I thought that the co-worker was reading your book or your newspaper. I wouldn't mind that. But someone reading my work-in-progress, without my permission? I'd be annoyed.

11-29-2007, 04:23 AM
I don't mind this at all, as I don't feel like my writing is private as I always want to share it with close family. If it's a random passerby or even someone at work, I don't care. They can very well continue to look over their shoulder, the entire day if it satisfies them.

11-29-2007, 05:06 AM
what a bitch!! i hate it when people read over my shoulder. the next time that happens, maybe you can pretend that you're editing someone else's x rated fanfic romance...

Ol' Fashioned Girl
11-29-2007, 05:16 AM
I'd find a way to be reading over HER shoulder next time she's wasting company time... or even working. Every time I had the opportunity, I'd be right at her elbow. She'd get the message.

11-29-2007, 10:07 AM
Office pranks involving glue and dry ice are appropriate.

11-29-2007, 10:14 AM
If someone had asked me what I was writing I'd reply, "None of your business."

I'm fond of "Your obituary, if you don't get out of my face."

11-29-2007, 10:45 AM
This is why I never take my laptop into university or work, even though I get a few bits of free time where I could put in some writing. For starters, my tutor in Legal History is in the market for a laptop at the moment so snoops around if he sees anyone using one, to see if it's a good model he might want to buy.

If that happened to me though, I'd have to go with the obituary comment.

11-29-2007, 10:48 AM
And yet, you never know when just that kind of person is a heavy book buyer, with romance reading friends... but yeah, it is annoying.

11-29-2007, 10:52 AM
I'd be willing to bet good money that everyone here has done the same thing at least once. Not the gossip-mongering, just the reading over someones shoulder. C'mon, that's just natural human curiosity. You've never been sitting on a plane, the passenger next to you whips out his/her laptop and begins typing, and you NEVER once stole a glance? Be honest.

11-29-2007, 11:25 AM
The not-so-nice response that immediately came to my mind was: The details of my affair with your husband.

Seriously, I understand why you felt it necessary to offer some response, but there was no reason that you needed to do so. If you don't choose to share that part of your life at the office, it's not their business. This woman was not behaving as a person who respects you as an individual, so there was absolute no reason for you to feel compelled to respond. If she had respected you as an individual, she would not have deliberately put you in a position where you felt obligated to respond.

11-29-2007, 11:33 AM
I'd be willing to bet good money that everyone here has done the same thing at least once.

I have never peeped at anyone's laptop.

This has happened to me maybe five or six times, and I didn't like it. Yes, I want folks to read my work, but not in progress. Everything evolves and changes a great deal from first draft, to second, tenth, etc. My wife gets to see first drafts sometimes, pretty rarely really. I don't want to waste beta-readers on drafts that need work I can easily edit.

It is rude. Medi has the proper response.

11-29-2007, 11:34 AM
The not-so-nice response that immediately came to my mind was: The details of my affair with your husband.

Or Birol's response, either one.

11-29-2007, 01:40 PM
For those of you who have seen me post this personal experience, please bear with me.

In 1997 I was en route from Salt Lake City, Ut to Cape Town, South Africa. The leg of my journey from Miami to Cape Town was a 14.5 hour NON-stop flight back then. I decided to take advantage of the time and work on my novel. The man next to me decides to be nosey and kept leaning over to read what I was typing. Now, I am a polite person as many of you know by now. (or rather I try to be, sorry Spooky for telling you to sod off that one time, though I think you rather enjoyed it...but let's not digress)

This man kept trying to catch my eye and it was really annoying me. First I didn't want to talk to him and second he was reading over my shoulder! He got so blatant about wanting to talk to me I finally gave up and looked at him. You'd think the icy stare I gave him would have stopped him (guess I need to practice that a bit more) but it didn't.

Nosy man: What are you writing?

Me: A novel.

Nosy man: What kind of novel?

Me: A murder mystery.

Nosy man: OH! Is it based on a true story?

Me: (In flat tone and dead level gaze at him) Not until they find my dead ex husband's body it isn't.

Nosy man: (he blinks, pauses) You're not a very nice person are you?

Me: (silence, stare, return to working on my story)

He left me alone and even scooted closer to the window for the remainder of the flight.


11-29-2007, 02:02 PM

11-29-2007, 06:41 PM
I'd be willing to bet good money that everyone here has done the same thing at least once. Not the gossip-mongering, just the reading over someones shoulder.

I can honestly say, no, never.

I don't see well enough . . .

11-29-2007, 07:03 PM
I have a privacy filter on my laptop screen. Makes it nearly impossible to read unless someone puts their head right next to mine or sits on my lap. There haven't been any snoops who'd go quite that far, yet.

11-29-2007, 07:26 PM
"There is this woman who is constantly invading my space, bugging me. I'm writing a personals ad in her name, for an XXX-rated swingers' site."

11-29-2007, 07:44 PM
I don't snoop either. I find that sort of thing incredibly rude. What someone is doing on their computer is none of my business and I expect the same respect in return.

I write on my lunch break at a food court near where I work, it really is the only place and time I get during the work week. Unfortunately, since my picture is at the top of my weekly column for my local paper, I get recognized every now and then. The other peeps who are there on a regular basis generally leave me alone, but when someone does approach me and asks what I'm doing, I lower the screen of my laptop enough that they can't see it anymore and say, "I'm sorry, it's personal," as politely as I can manage. (The last thing I want is to alienate a reader.) I leave the screen lowered until they go away.

I have yet to have someone push the point.

11-29-2007, 08:16 PM
Considering cabin air drives out my contacts to no end, seeing isn't huge for me on a plane unless it's a TV screen. The only time I'll catch something even remotely decipherable on a laptop screen is if they pop in a movie and I catch it out the corner of my eye. Even then I don't care to watch as I'm probably watching the inflight movie (yes, i am that cheesy) or reading a book/listening to music to block out the heavy breathers. I've yet to run into an instance where someone was snooping but then again by laptop battery holds, at most, 45 minutes of charge so if I were writing something, it'd be manually. If it were on a plane, I'd have to do everything in my power to prevent myself from getting red-flagged but I probably wouldn't be very nice if I caught someone trying to decipher my written word.

12-01-2007, 08:56 PM
"What are you writing?"

"Don't you know, weren't you reading over my shoulder?"

But thinking about it, aren't you writing it so other people will read it? Maybe she would be a good beta reader (thinking about the old adage "keep your friends close and your enemies closer"). She might even build up some 'in office press' for you and get other people excited about what you were writing. Book sales...gotta' think sales....


12-01-2007, 09:10 PM
I have had the question asked of me in-flight and responded by saying: "it's a technical paper, how do you spell pentaerythritoltetranitrate?"

12-01-2007, 09:23 PM
I hate when people are within viewing distance of the screen while I'm writing. Especially when working on the first draft. First of all, they have no clue what I'm doing and it's none of their business. Second of all, it's an unfinished draft, so I have no confidence in it. And third of all, chances are it's not the first page, so even if they figure out it's a novel or even think it's good, it's not going to make any sense when it's in the middle of the book.

I was NaNoing at Panera in this past month and had an employee there who insisted on hanging out behind me. The trashcans were behind me and she was putting a bag in, but she wasn't facing the trashcan she was facing me and it took her ten minutes to "unfold" the bag while she stared right at my laptop.

12-01-2007, 09:30 PM
If it's particularly good smut, switch to 24 point font and type:

I have to go now, honey. Some rude tit is reading over my shoulder. Please remember these instructions and be well oiled and ready when I get home.

12-02-2007, 10:22 AM
The actually make screen protectors you can put on your laptop screen so people can only see it if they are viewing it head on (ie, only the user).

Good for airplanes and stuff like that (and snooping co-workers.) I'd get one just because it would annoy co-worker in question. Because, yeah, on a coast-to-coast flight, the person next to you opens up their laptop... the inflight movie sucks... it's sooo tempting. :( But that's not the same, at all. That's a forgiveable sin. Purposely reading the private documents of someone you KNOW and work with everyday is way different, and way more wrong. And commenting on them? There's a special place in hell for people who do that...

Funny thing... when I first read this headline, I thought you meant the co-worker was reading over your shoulder right now, as you were posting. THAT would be another way to stop her... open up AW and start venting about rude people who try to read over your shoulder! :)

You handled it very well, Leva, IMO. I wouldn't worry about what anyone thinks at your job, anyway. Chances are people will either think it's cool or not think about it one way or another.

Kate Thornton
12-02-2007, 08:30 PM
mollyluna, companies *do* have the right to read your emails on their servers - when you went to work there, you probably signed a written acknowledgement that there is no presumption of privacy in company emails. Company emails are part of the legal documentation of companies and are the property of those same companies.

Always use your personal email if you want something at work to stay personal.

Sharon Mock
12-04-2007, 12:05 AM
Of course I've been known to glance at other people's laptops. What do you expect? There's words on the screen! Haven't you heard of "attractive nuisance"?

That said, actually acknowledging that you've been peeking -- makes me feel faint, it does. What a lapse of etiquette.

12-05-2007, 11:53 PM
This happens in my home quite a bit. No matter how many times I have said that it bothers me or just minimized the document and walked off after turning off the monitor, people still do it.

It's really uncomfortable when I'm trying to write a product description sample for some sites. Haven't got to the point of yelling, yet. I did copy the huge fonted post that Meerkat put up. Will pop that up next time and leave the monitor on.

12-06-2007, 01:53 AM
How to REALLY draw the attention of someone sitting next to you on a plane:

1) Take your laptop out
2) Open it slowly
3) Turn it on
4) Make sure the person next to you is looking at your screen
5) Do a file search and click on to the link below
6) Close your eyes and look upwards
7) Look at his face.


12-06-2007, 02:36 AM
Over Thanksgiving I was checking my email when my grandmother came into the room. I held off opening a particular email because that friend sometimes swears & I had a feeling my grandma might peek. When she left, I opened the email & was in the middle of replying when she came back into the room. Before I could say anything she said, "You missed a space there and misspelled that word."

I took a breath (nice thoughts, it's gramma) and said as sweetly as possible, "Are you editing my email?"

She just smiled and said yes.


Leva, I would be just as pissed if I were in your position & I think you handled it well. Better than I probably would have.

12-06-2007, 03:58 AM
I have actually yelled at my boyfriend to stop pacing around behind me while I'm trying to write. He has zero interest in what I'm writing, but I just get the heebie-jeebies when someone is behind me like that. If this had been one of my coworkers, they would have gotten the sharp edge of my tongue, for sure. "Is it your business?" is one I might have pulled out, or "Don't you have something you're supposed to be doing, or do they pay you to snoop now?" I'm not a very nice person. :e2teeth:

12-06-2007, 06:19 AM
How to REALLY draw the attention of someone sitting next to you on a plane:

1) Take your laptop out
2) Open it slowly
3) Turn it on
4) Make sure the person next to you is looking at your screen
5) Do a file search and click on to the link below
6) Close your eyes and look upwards
7) Look at his face.


Yeah, as you get the barrels of seven guns in your face thanks to the plain clothes air marshals on the flight, not to mention bum rushed by any and all surrounding passengers. If you want a firsthand look at Gitmo, sure, do that! They're so anal retentive about security at airports now that they wouldn't get the joke and I'm sure a few people would find that a little on the tasteless side, like that girl that wore that blinking sweatshirt to pick up her friend at an airport. Dur anyone? She was nearly tackled by security and detained and she wasn't even a passenger.

12-06-2007, 12:29 PM
Ok DonnaDuck, in future I will add a disclaimer to anything I post here which is not intended to be an instruction that must be followed to the letter. The world is full of tasteless jokes, just as it is full of humourless people. I mean, the people on here are supposed to have just a little more intellectual nous, right? I am disappointed, but not surprised.

Do you really have seven fully armed plain clothed air marshals on every flight where you live? Wow I'm impressed at the sheer paranoia of that. As a practising EOD Engineer I am fully aware of the need for airport security - in fact I lecture on aspects of it. There is a need to keep anti terrorism and airport security in perspective, otherwise the terrorist wins by default - he may not be able to plant his bomb, but no one can fly anywhere because the aircraft are all full of heavily armed air marshals sticking guns in each others faces. By the way I am hijacking this thread and flying it to Colombia. I have an armed sense of humour and I am not afraid to use it. Just kidding!

12-06-2007, 09:48 PM
Ok DonnaDuck, in future I will add a disclaimer to anything I post here which is not intended to be an instruction that must be followed to the letter. The world is full of tasteless jokes, just as it is full of humourless people. I mean, the people on here are supposed to have just a little more intellectual nous, right? I am disappointed, but not surprised.

Nice insult you got there. Thanks, especially considering you lumped everyone on the board into one group because of something one person said. Considering I'm a humor writer, I have enough humor in me to go around (because it's obviously not blatant enough in my signature, I actually have to come out and say it). I'm also a 9/11 survivor, and know people who died that day and, yeah, don't find much humor in a pretend bomb on a plane. I'm also perfectly within my right not to find the humor in that. I didn't realize I had to find it funny. Just because I didn't find it funny doesn't mean I'm (nor anyone else on this board is) humorless. And coming from someone with such self-described intellect, I would have thought you would have picked up on the exaggeration of seven air marshals and the jocularity of the rest of the post. Perhaps next time I should use emoticons to further display my internetal feelings. So the pot says to the kettle, where's the humor again?

Aaaaaannnnnnnnnnnddddddddddddd back to the topic at hand--

How about bigs words from the previous page of posts that says something snide and every shirking office worker's best friend, Alt Tab? Or a wayward arm and a claim of spastic muscle spasms. It gets annoying, especially when the person doesn't get it and go away even after you tell them to leave you alone. God forbid anyone have any privacy.

Mystic Blossom
12-07-2007, 06:20 PM
I get irritated when people do that, especially if I'm writing something on my own, that's not for a class. I don't like anyone to see a first draft, either, and they tend to want to read while I'm writing first drafts most of all.

The majority of my irritations however, have been when people ask me what I'm working on. I don't like discussing works in progress (especially early progress) with random people, because it's hard to articulate my ideas without making them sound terrible, and at the really early stages, I often lack complete confidence in the work. Usually, if it's another writer, they understand that I'm not at a stage where I want to talk about it, but if it's not a writer, the conversation goes something like this:

Person: What are you working on?
Me: A book.
Person: Oooo, what kind of book?
Me: Just a novel.
Person: What's it about?
Me: Um, stuff.
Person: What kind of stuff?
Me: Just stuff.
Person: Well, is it fantasy? Romance?
Me: ...*starts whimpering a little*

12-07-2007, 07:26 PM
Nosy Person: What are you writing?

Me: Words.

NP: Thanks. What kind of words?

Me: English ones.

If they don't get the hint by then, they're denser than cement.

12-21-2007, 06:24 PM
Nosey person: (looks at computer screen)

Me: Can I help you with something?

NP: What are you writing?

Me: Uhmmm, I don't want to be rude but I have a neurological condition and it makes my hypersensitive to everything around me. If you keep reading over my shoulder I'll have to turn off my computer...

NP: What

NP: Bad part is that if I didn't turn off the computer I'd start having a full blown panic attack, THEN they'd have to turn the plane around (or land the plane at the nearest airport) then we'd be hours late.

NP: (shuts up immediately)

12-24-2007, 07:05 AM
I haven't actually taken River (my AWESOME NEW LAPTOP OH GODS I LOVE IT) out yet, so I haven't had this problem (and my handwriting is chicken scratch), but at home, I can't have anyone read over my shoulder. If my fiance comes over, I instinctively alt-tab - it's MINE until I decide to release it.

12-24-2007, 05:24 PM
hmm... can you tell me about your laptop? Did you name it River or is that the brand?

I googled it (or yahooed it) and all I got was a $162. briefcase for a lap top.

Triple Compartment Computer Compatible Briefcase in Leather

Nice - but empty.

12-25-2007, 01:09 AM
I named it River after the character in Firefly.

HP Pavilion dv9613 (dv9500 family). 17". Dual core 2.2ghz. 280G HDD. Fantastic nVidia graphics card.

I wanted the dv2600, it's cuter, but they didn't have any. :(

Somehow, I will survive with the larger and more powerful one...somehow...