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I accidentally saw porn on my boss's computer, now what?
February 11, 2009 12:30 PM   Subscribe

I accidentally saw porn on my boss's computer, now what?

I'm a 25 year-old female who has been working at my company for 7 months. A couple of days ago I walked into my boss's (middle aged man) office to ask him a question about a project he gave me. For a split second I saw what was on his computer screen, which was later discovered to be an online hook-up site for gay men with explicit profiles. He quickly minimized the window on computer, and I am sure he doesn't know what I saw. Upon entering his office again about an hour later, the same scenario happened. To confirm my suspicion I went into the office the next day and checked the history on that computer. I do have full access to this computer and he has full access to mine, as we have to share files for our research. I did not go to any of these sites; I just checked the browser history. My suspicion of the site I saw was confirmed. And then I saw about 10 more explicit sites in the history, mostly geared toward gay men. All of these sites were accessed during work hours. I brought in my camera and took a screen shot of what I saw on the history as evidence. Mainly because the people at my boss's boss's office know absolutely nothing about computers. It is a small company with no IT personnel. My boss manages our network in our laboratory, so I know he would erase everything if he wanted to.

What my boss does in his free time is his own business. That is fine. I have nothing against someone who has a different lifestyle than mine. My problem with discovering it has made me question his ability to make an ethical decision when it comes to the work we do on a daily basis. I believe in my heart that this will harm our company at some point. If this information got to the public, it could devastate this company and the doctors who own it.

Some background: I work in a small office (no HR, no handbooks, no office policy on computer usage, and no IT department) with one other person, my boss. We work in a research lab that supports a medical doctor's practice. He has a wife and kids. Our research field is one of those where your reputation is very important. Everyone around the country in this field basically knows each other.

The way I see it, I have a couple of options:

(1)Say nothing. This is what I have been doing so far because I fear my other options right now. I am looking for a new job and want to get out of here ASAP, but the market stinks. There is no way I can work for someone who I do not respect or trust. I am considering saying something to his boss when I leave the company or just keeping quiet.
(2)Say something to his boss (the doctors in the practice): This is where I get really nervous because he will definitely know it was me that told on him. I do want to say something because I know it's the right thing to do. Are they going to fire me for being a tattle tale? And then give me a terrible reputation in this field? Are they going to make him resign? If he resigns, or gets fired, our research cannot be conducted and therefore, I have no job. Filling his position would be costly, and might take quite some time. Plus the doctor's practice would probably go under. My worst nightmare is that they give him a warning. I cannot afford to leave my job right now, but there is NO way I would be able to work with him. He will know I was the one who found this, as I am the only one who works with him in the office. I also fear for my safety if I do take this route. I mean, he knows where I live. I am posting this anon, for obvious reasons.

I feel like any route I take is going to be terrible, and I am going to lose my job. I've looked for other jobs and the market sucks. I feel this is not fair, because I wasn't the one who decided to look at gay p0rn during work. I really liked my job until this happened.

What would you do in this situation? Have any of you had to deal with this before? Or similar sexual harassment? What did your company do? Did you get a lawyer? Did you talk to the person? Throw away email whyismybosssostupid@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (178 answers total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
 
it has made me question his ability to make an ethical decision when it comes to the work we do on a daily basis

huh? why? makes no sense.
posted by Perplexity at 12:35 PM on February 11, 2009 [41 favorites]


Not your business.
posted by kimdog at 12:36 PM on February 11, 2009 [40 favorites]


"What my boss does in his free time is his own business. That is fine. I have nothing against someone who has a different lifestyle than mine. My problem with discovering it has made me question his ability to make an ethical decision when it comes to the work we do on a daily basis. I believe in my heart that this will harm our company at some point. If this information got to the public, it could devastate this company and the doctors who own it."

The only way this information would leak is if you leaked it - or if someone else who sees it leaks it.

I would say that the only thing worse than what he did would be ratting him out for it. If you do that, IMO, it's your judgement and dedication to the company (which is nothing more than its employees, right?) that is the more questionable.
posted by luriete at 12:36 PM on February 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


If it was me I would keep my mouth shut, plain and simple. I am not an HR person, but I am not sure how this constitutes sexual harassment. As a network administrator form large companies to family ran companies - you would be absolutely astonished by the amount of porn that is viewed during work time. Does that make it right, because everyone else does it? Of course not.
posted by jaythebull at 12:37 PM on February 11, 2009


None of your business.
posted by ericb at 12:39 PM on February 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


you're planning on leaving, so you should just let this be. say nothing.

but . . . To confirm [your] suspicion [you] went into [his] office the next day and checked the history on that computer. all i'm saying is that i do not think that 'accidentally' means what you think it means.

which is, of course, another reason to let this be. good luck with your job search.
posted by deejay jaydee at 12:40 PM on February 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


Why do you care?

Do nothing. He's either doing his job or letting his surfing get in the way. If it's the former, no one's the wiser. It's not very professional of him, granted, but it's not hurting anyone. If he isn't doing his job, other people will take care of him for that reason, rather than the porn. There's no reason for you to be part of it.

What would I do? Stop caring. Do your job (which is not to spy on your boss) and let him do his job (whatever that is).

This is absolutely not worth a lawyer if you have any self-respect or desire to be gainfully employed. If that's the worst he's ever done to you, you have quite possibly one of the most desirable job in the world.

I understand you have many concerns, but I read this several times and have nothing other to say than this: you're over thinking something that's a tad bit unpleasant but definitely not the worst thing in the world. You're making this hard on yourself, not your boss.

Short answer: shut up, sit down, do your job, and stop caring.
posted by saeculorum at 12:40 PM on February 11, 2009 [11 favorites]


Pretend it never happened.
posted by fire&wings at 12:41 PM on February 11, 2009


Wow. Step back. Breathe. Your boss didn't "sexually harass" you. You saw him doing something he shouldn't have been doing at work. You proceeded to overstep the bounds of your position and "document" what he did. Why? What do you care what he does on his computer if it doesn't directly impact you?

You now claim you can't work with him any longer and cannot respect him and worry about hi ability to make ethical decisions. This sounds like it's more about your homophobia than it is about him looking at naked guys on work time. If you can't work with him, find another job.
posted by cosmicbandito at 12:41 PM on February 11, 2009 [106 favorites]


I'd go with (3) Talk to him about it directly. If it doesn't actually offend you, and you're just worried about his reputation, then tell him that a) you saw it, b) you don't care, but c) he should probably keep it on the down-low because this stuff leaves a trail. If he hasn't broken any actual rules, there's no need to involve anyone else. He probably just needs some instruction on the realities of browser histories.

Now, if you think he'll throw a homophobic raging tantrum if you so much as hint at it, then yeah, just keep your mouth shut and find another job. I can't tell from your question if the situation is that delicate - although I do wonder if he was looking at straight porn, what your reaction would have been. I'm perhaps over-sensitive to the aroma of homophobia, but I do confess I detect it here.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:41 PM on February 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


I suppose one could make an argument that what you saw creates an oppressive work atmosphere or something-- or! you could just knock and wait a minute before sneaking up on him again. If it were me I would say nothing.
posted by Maisie Jay at 12:42 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


a hook-up site is not porn. which one was it?
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 12:42 PM on February 11, 2009 [7 favorites]


Wait, how is your snooping around in someone else's browser history sexual harassment against you? And the bit with taking a picture of it crossed the line well past the other line you crossed when you snuck in there in the first place.

Go with plan 1.

Further, contemplate the cognative dissonance between these two statements:
I have nothing against someone who has a different lifestyle than mine. and There is no way I can work for someone who I do not respect or trust.

Additionally, from here on out, stay out of your coworkers stuff. Your impromptu sleuthing is a grievous and fireable transgression in any workplace where you have zero authority to do so.
posted by jamaro at 12:42 PM on February 11, 2009 [50 favorites]


It's definitely something he shouldn't be doing at work, but do you really want to be responsible for him losing his job in this market? I certainly wouldn't wish that on anyone right now.
posted by TrialByMedia at 12:42 PM on February 11, 2009


This isn't sexual harassment. It may offend you that your boss uses his work computer for personal web surfing, but have you never looked at Metafilter at work? Say nothing, and if this bothers you, find another job.
posted by donajo at 12:43 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


...an online hook-up site for gay men with explicit profiles

BTW -- such does not constitute porn.
posted by ericb at 12:44 PM on February 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sure, he probably shouldn't be doing personal things on company time, but of all the offenses a person can commit, I dare say this is a fairly minor one. I don't see what this has to do with you losing respect for him or questioning his ability to do his job. Do you have any reason to think browsing dating websites for gay men is getting in the way of his work? If not, I don't see why you care. Unless it gets in the way of his productivity, you should keep your mouth shut. It's none of your business.
posted by faeuboulanger at 12:45 PM on February 11, 2009


Is he getting his work done? Is it your job to make sure he's getting his work done? (He's your boss, so my guess would be no.)

It's not your business. You shouldn't have snooped. Scrub your brain and forget you know this.
posted by rtha at 12:45 PM on February 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


IMO : The fact that you believe your boss' interest in gay websites could somehow bring down your company shows what your opinion is of his lifestyle. You say it's his business - yet, you snooped around in order to get the juicy tidbit you were looking for.

Live and let live - does he make good decisions? Is he nice and professional? Then quit thinking like an asshole and don't say anything. You would sacrafice your job just to rat this guy out for things that, seemingly, aren't affecting the business? If you tell on him what are the ramifications? His may lose his job, you may lose your job, you may end his marriage, he may lose his kids, he could even kill himself - is that really worth it?

Your mindset makes me ill - I apologize if I am being harsh, and maybe I don't fully understand the situation - but then again, you posted on ask looking for other people's views.
posted by Brettus at 12:45 PM on February 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


no office policy on computer usage

Then your boss wasn't doing anything wrong.

Sure, looking at sexually explicit sites (regardless of sexual orientation) is kind of icky, but if you don't have a policy on computer usage, it doesn't violate your policy on computer usage.

And you're afraid that he'll come to your house? That's ridiculous.
posted by amarynth at 12:45 PM on February 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


Honestly, get a life and a new job.

Being squicked out is understandable, 'cause you have seen a side of your boss that you didn't expect or want to see. However, checking on his computer and taking photos of the screen are way over the line and invitations to starting trouble while neatly puting you in a moral quandary of your own making. Not only do you suspect, but you've proved it to yourself and now feel as though you must do something, 'cause dammit, now you know! See the neat little circle there?

Let it go, stop being so judgemental, he's only human and therefore flawed. If it really bothers you, move on, getting a job doing something else if you have to.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:47 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


"My problem with discovering it has made me question his ability to make an ethical decision when it comes to the work we do on a daily basis. I believe in my heart that this will harm our company at some point. If this information got to the public, it could devastate this company and the doctors who own it."

And just how, exactly, does looking at gay pr0n make his ethics dubious? It just sounds to me that he is not particularly circumspect about what he does when. Also, unless there is much more to this story than you're writing, it sounds like you need to chill out--my co-workers know where I live, but I don't fear for my safety every time I find someone doing something dumb.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:47 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


...How is this sexual harassment? I could agree if he was deliberately trying to get you to look at his pornography/dating site, but ... similar sexual harassment?

There is no way I can work for someone who I do not respect or trust.

You don't respect him because you have discovered he might be bisexual or gay? Or because he is viewing this during work time? I don't see how this would cause you to not trust someone (either of these things).

As kimdog said, not your business.
posted by chrisbucks at 12:47 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


What if he was doing research?

Epidemiologists, public health officials, health activists, etc. go to just these sorts of sites to engage members, observe behavior, and spread awareness all the time.

For all you know, he was being an antagonist to these communities and shares your peculiar sense of morality.

That said, you have no idea what he was doing or why and, as such, have no grounds to take any action whatsoever.
posted by elpiconeroalcognac at 12:49 PM on February 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Based on your description, I don't understand the claim that this is sexual harassment. Central to sexual harassment is harassment, but in this case, he didn't intend for you to see his screen, doesn't think you saw his screen, and you have not asked him to refrain from this behavior.

Browsing gay websites and being gay/bisexual/bi-curious/in an open marriage are not immoral so I do not see how this is relevant to his professional judgment. If there truly is not policy against such computer use, he has done nothing wrong and firing him would amount to discrimination, which even if not illegal, is immoral. If you approach his bosses, you will make the workplace uncomfortable for yourself.

I don't think this is you're business, and I would ignore the previous incidents and if it happened again and it bothers you, calmly ask him to refrain from surfing explicit material when you are in the office.

The other approach is to calmly ask him now to refrain from surfing explicit material when you are in the office.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 12:49 PM on February 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


I believe in my heart that this will harm our company at some point. If this information got to the public, it could devastate this company and the doctors who own it.

This seems highly unlikely. Even in cases where a boss is doing something that actually does have a good chance of hurting the company, you have a lot better chance of being negatively affected by blowing the whistle than you do by staying quiet. It mainly comes down to the fact that screwing over your boss, even for a good cause, tends to backfire.

If this means so much to you that you want to risk your own job by telling the higher-ups, you're free to do so. But if you don't care enough or don't want to burn any bridges then I would suggest forgetting about the whole thing.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:53 PM on February 11, 2009


If this information got to the public, it could devastate this company and the doctors who own it.

If you are afraid of this "information" becoming public, why in the world would you take pictures as "evidence" and then ask strangers on the internet about it?
posted by gyusan at 12:54 PM on February 11, 2009 [43 favorites]


What my boss does in his free time is his own business. That is fine.

See, you say this, but the entire rest of your question, from the snooping through his office taking photos, to the "OMG how can I ever trust him again??" to the completely lunatic "I fear for my safety" screams that you feel otherwise.

If you just can't personally cope with the fact that your boss looks at gay porn, that's fine, look for another job -- but I see no benefit to anyone coming out of you doing anything other than deleting those photos immediately and never mentioning this to anybody ever again.
posted by ook at 12:54 PM on February 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Your boss is browsing perfectly legal sites when there is no official policy on computer usage? He may get a slap on the wrist.

You sneaking into your boss's office to "document" activities you are personally opposed to, rummaging through his files and his computer? I hope they find out and take appropriate action, which may be to kindly help you to leave, or perhaps something not so kind.

None of your freaking business. If you decide to tell on him I hope that reputation follows you around everywhere you go. Everyone should know that you find it normal to sneak into their offices and look through their stuff to find whatever it is you find objectionable.

I feel this is not fair, because I wasn't the one who decided to look at gay p0rn during work

Get the fuck out of here. You took a look at his screen. You came back later to try to catch him again. Then you waited and went into his office while he wasn't there to look at his computer.

You didn't decide to look at it? How stupid do you think people are? You went out of your way to look at this. You're kidding yourself, and you'd have to be real stupid to believe the lies you tell.
posted by splice at 12:55 PM on February 11, 2009 [49 favorites]


There is no benefit to you to meddle in this matter.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:55 PM on February 11, 2009


For a split second I saw what was on his computer screen, which was later discovered to be an online hook-up site for gay men with explicit profiles...

...To confirm my suspicion I went into the office the next day and checked the history on that computer.
So you didn't see anything sexually explicit, and yet in your mind, this is sexual harrassment. Do you see the disconnect here?
posted by anonymous_account at 12:56 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


"What my boss does in his free time is his own business. That is fine. I have nothing against someone who has a different lifestyle than mine. My problem with discovering it has made me question his ability to make an ethical decision when it comes to the work we do on a daily basis. I believe in my heart that this will harm our company at some point. If this information got to the public, it could devastate this company and the doctors who own it."

This doesn't make any sense to me at all. Your boss is apparently conducting some personal business on company time, which is probably against policy, but doesn't seem to rise to the level of a serious ethical breach. You don't have any evidence that he's devoting so much time to surfing these sites that it's affecting his ability to get work done. A high-percentage of the folks posting to Metafilter during the day are just as guilty of goofing off on company time, using company resources, but I can't imagine that makes them incapable of making ethical decisions at work.

I also have a hard time imagining that the "public" would care if it somehow found out that a supervisor in your company sometimes surfed porn/dating sites (it's not clear from your description which it is) at work. Certainly you haven't explained how it would "devastate" the company.

"Or similar sexual harassment?"

How is this sexual harassment if your boss never intended you to see it and did his best to hide it from you?
posted by tdismukes at 12:56 PM on February 11, 2009


i think your response to his actions shows more about you than him.

nthing if he's doing his job, leave it alone.

also nthing - you have no idea if he was there for research purposes.

he didn't ask you to look at it, didn't leave it up while you were there, and there is no company policy about it.

sure, it's not the best thing to do while you're at work, but you're not making the rules for him.

not to cast stones, but i think you're a creepy person to go in to someone else's computer and TAKE PICTURES of someone's browsing history. if i found out you did that and i was your boss, i would fire you and deny your unemployment claim if at all possible.

wow.
posted by sio42 at 1:00 PM on February 11, 2009 [12 favorites]


Definitely not cool at work, but not really your business. Plenty of people waste time at work on the net, his is just creepier than per usual. As for the wife and kids, his home life is not really your concern. If it really bothers you, tell him what you saw and ask him to stop. If he doesn't, then you can reasonably bring it up with his boss.
posted by electroboy at 1:03 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I feel this is not fair, because I wasn't the one who decided to look at gay p0rn during work. I really liked my job until this happened.

Well, you went snooping to see if anyone else was looking at what you judge to be porn. So yes, you did decide to go look at it.

I would say to leave this guy alone. Quit judging him. Don't go to the doctors that he does research for, or anyone else about this. It is not your business.
posted by kellyblah at 1:04 PM on February 11, 2009


I suggest you give your boss a quick instruction on how to download and install Firefox, set it as his default browser, and configure the following options:

On the Privacy tab, uncheck all the boxes under History.

Under the Cookies section, select Keep Until: I close Firefox.

Check Always clear my private data when closing Firefox.

Click the Settings button and check all the boxes.

Un-check Ask me before clearing private data.

Since he's apparently the only other person who would be checking things upstream, network-wise, problem solved!
posted by odinsdream at 1:07 PM on February 11, 2009 [25 favorites]


Oh, and couch your instruction under the guise of "You can never be too careful with your personal data on-line these days, you know!"

Say nothing of the incident.
posted by odinsdream at 1:07 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


If it isn't anything illegal (substantively, not on a technicality) and it isn't anything non-consensually physically harmful to another adult human being, butt out. Seriously. Quit being such a busybody.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 1:08 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's so much that's so wrong about your question...

"Have any of you had to deal with this before? Or similar sexual harassment?"

Sexual harassment? Care to explain how you were harassed, sexually or otherwise? Or are you talking about how YOU are going to sexually harass HIM? You are, after all, the one who is snooping. And you're the one making an issue of his sexuality.

Also, you didn't "accidentally" see porn. You accidentally caught a glimpse of something. Later, you INTENTIONALLY saw porn. You're the super snooper here, not your boss.

You know the job market sucks right now, so you need to stop trying to mess up the job you have while so many others are unemployed. I wonder if you can be fired for invading your boss' privacy. You may have posted anonymously, but you're the one threatening to sexually harass. I mean, really now... what does his sexual orientation have to do with anything?

Hopefully, you have never mentioned a word of this to anyone else (I really doubt that, however).


"There is no way I can work for someone who I do not respect or trust."

You're the one invading someone else's privacy. How can YOU be trustworthy?

Use this experience as a life lesson. It's time for you to grow up and learn what is and isn't your business.

Get your resume ready because I see pavement in your future.
posted by 2oh1 at 1:09 PM on February 11, 2009 [25 favorites]


I think you just sexually harassed your boss. You showed a less than professional interest in their sexual habits to gratify your own curiosity, intruding in their privacy. Imagine how your boss would feel if he knew you were so fascinated in his tastes. Creeping icks, and now you think you're a poor wounded victim? This is like if a coworker got a glimpse of bra by accident and then crept into the women’s employee locker room to find out the cup size and if she liked them lacey, so (s)he could have her punished for a dress code violation.

And I'd love to know where you work that a gay boss matters. Focus on the family or an ex-gay repair clinic, maybe? :P
posted by Phalene at 1:09 PM on February 11, 2009 [23 favorites]


You took a picture? Really? Clearly blackmail is the answer to "now what?" It's the only possible justification for your busy-bodyness.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 1:09 PM on February 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


I also fear for my safety if I do take this route. I mean, he knows where I live.

Honestly, you sound like a person who has mental health issues. Instead of snooping on your boss's browsing perhaps you should be addressing why you feel threatened by gay dating sites and fear for your life.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:10 PM on February 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


Wait. You fear for your safety when he finds out about this? I do not know what exactly your situation is, but there is nothing to indicate that this guy would get violent towards you. Between that, and the ethical decision making thing, I think you may have a tendency to over react to things. I hope the responses here give you a new light to look at things.
posted by kellyblah at 1:10 PM on February 11, 2009


I second all the forget what you saw and find a new job. Because, this really isn't your problem. You made it your problem when you snooped, which you shouldn't have done.

Seriously, leave.it.alone. And get out of there if you feel that it ~could compromise your ethics.~
posted by sperose at 1:15 PM on February 11, 2009


Since you've asked for opinions here, I'll give you mine. It's my opinion that you're the guilty party here. You're the one causing trouble, not him (as long as his work is getting done), and you're the one creating the drama around this "situation." You snooped, outright snooped, and documented the fact that you snooped. You want me to say "OMG! Teh gay man must be stoppped!!!11!!1"? Who gives a shit? You, that's who. Grow up, stop caring about this, stop creating drama, move on. You want a different job? Fine, get one, best of luck to you, but don't drag this man down when he didn't do anything wrong. I abhore people who do this sort of thing. This "justification of my actions in destroying you because yours disagree with my moral compass." Small mindedness at it's best. Get a life.
posted by LunaticFringe at 1:16 PM on February 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


I bet you'd get a whole different set of answers if you didn't infuse the whole question with the issue of his sexuality.

People saying this couldn't possibly be sexual harassment need to do a little more reading and a little less assuming. If librarians can get the EEOC in their corner because someone downloaded porn on a library computer, browsing explicit sexual images at work in a way that your co-workers can happen upon during the normal course of their job duties is certainly not guaranteed kosher behavior, either.

That said: I can't think of a single thing you gain from making an issue out of this. If you can't work with the man, find a new job.
posted by toomuchpete at 1:18 PM on February 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


I would add that the idea of porn viewing being harrassment is to cover people who say, view porn in the cube next to you, above and beyond your desire to be treated to 'Barely Legal Blondes IV' and 'Cruising for Cut Club Chicken'. It does not refer to porn you have to actively ferret out.
posted by Phalene at 1:19 PM on February 11, 2009


Calling this "sexual harrassment" is something of an insult to anyone who has ever actually been sexually harrassed.

It's not exactly professional of him to check out sexy profiles during work hours, but he's not breaking policy and it's presumably not interfering with his work or anyone else's - except, now, yours, and you're the one who's making it so. If you're really that creeped out by the fact that he thinks gay sex is sexy and (horrors!) thinks about it during work time, then it'd be best for both of you if you started looking for a new job.

Your high horse has some awfully short legs and you'd do best to get off.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:19 PM on February 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wow, a lot of really hostile and poor answers here.

I'm pretty sure that at most companies, having porn/nudie pictures on your screen where a co-worker can see it is sexual harassment of the "hostile environment" variety.

That said, it's not really hurting you, he didn't intend to make you uncomfortable, your company has no policies on this, and you're looking for a new job anyway, so either just leave it be or leave him a polite note saying, "I don't enjoy seeing that when I come in your office thanks."
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:20 PM on February 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


a) Learn to knock.
b) follow odinsdream's suggestion to instruct your boss on clearing his history, since this is the only possible way anyone else could be at all likely to see something.
c) The only person harassing here is you. Stop, seriously. Especially the snooping on your boss. Don't you have work to be doing?

(And by the way, it is possible for a boss looking at explicit material on company time to be harassing; said boss might be making sure their subordinates see. Unless you have reason to believe your boss made sure you would catch him, and especially because this was not porn but an explicit hook-up site, then you're being ridiculous.)
posted by nat at 1:22 PM on February 11, 2009


How is this sexual harassment? This wasn't any of your business when you thought you saw him on these sites, nor was it your business when you later checked the history and took a picture. It is definitely not your business to say anything about this. And honestly, not only is it none your business, but it's not even a big deal. You say that you're not bothered by someone who has a "different lifestyle" than yours, but I have a hard time believing that you'd be wrestling with this if your boss was looking at a straight hook-up site.
posted by legendarygirlfriend at 1:22 PM on February 11, 2009


Delete the photo you took.
Get another job.
Resolve to never again look at stuff that isn't your business.
Educate yourself on what sexual harassment really is.
posted by DWRoelands at 1:23 PM on February 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


You have completely crossed a line into potential sexual harrassment here. I'll be honest right now, if you worked for me, and I knew you did this to one of your coworkers, I would fire you in a heartbeat and not look back. Your boss may have made a minor transgression by viewing personal information at work, but dating sites are not porn, and it seems very clear to me from the tone of your post that you were surprised to find out about his orientation, and now believe that it somehow will affect his ability to do his job.

Newsflash: Taking actions against someone because of your assumptions about them based on their personal sexual proclivities or private sexual life is harrassment and it is illegal.

You snooped on his computer, and have taken pictures of his history in some sort of attempt to document him because of something you saw. Not OK.
posted by pazazygeek at 1:25 PM on February 11, 2009 [9 favorites]


You've learned that you're a bigot. You should avoid situations where you need to make personnel demissions or manage people. If you don't, you'll get sued for harassment yourself one day. You might take this opportunity to learn how to now give a shit about other people's personal lives.

I don't see much wrong with telling his boss per se. You see doctors are often quite liberal, even the ones who go duck hunting and make gay jokes, partially because they all had gay friends in medical school. I doubt you'd be fired, unless they're paranoid you'd cause another employee to bring a lawsuit for discrimination, but you'd surely be mentally filed away as unqualified for personnel roles, due to bigotry.

Yes, they might also ask your boss to avoid looking at such sites during work hours. I suppose they might even invent some server logs excuse. Well, I don't think I'd ant employees spending too much time on distracting websites, like dating, metafilter, etc. either.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:25 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


For a split second I saw what was on his computer screen, which was later discovered to be an online hook-up site for gay men with explicit profiles.

I did not go to any of these sites; I just checked the browser history. My suspicion of the site I saw was confirmed.


Those statements do not square. How did you know that the site you "saw" was indeed "an online hook-up site for gay men with explicit profiles" without having to visit it?

Nthing mind your own business from this point forward.
posted by ericb at 1:26 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


[a few comments removed - please stick to answers, not JudgeMe stuff. Want to take it to metatalk, please feel free.]
posted by jessamyn at 1:31 PM on February 11, 2009


Just to add to the chorus that this is a depressing, homophobic question (how many times did you stress that it was OMG GAY websites) and that you are the one that was inappropriate. Would you have had a problem if it were Match.com (or a slightly more racy mostly-straight sight)?
posted by Pax at 1:31 PM on February 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


I would stop kidding yourself that you want to tell all for the greater good of the company. Yeah he might get caught one day, but if he gets caught he'll get caught by someone internally, most likely his boss and then he'll either be quietly reprimanded or fired. There is just no way your competition or the community at large is going to find out. Well not "no way" but it's HIGHLY unlikely. No one, other than you, is going to catch him and then get on their bullhorn and tell everyone about it.

Furthermore, if he's a really valued employee I'll bet you anything that the bosses will look the other way and give him a warning if you report him. People who are replaceable get fired for this kind of thing, not people who are valuable. He wasn't looking at child porn or doing anything (I assume) illegal with the company computer. Yeah I'm sure it's against policy, but so is checking facebook at work, it would be an easy thing to give him a warning about and then forget.

Yeah it sucks that he has a wife and kids that don't know. But honestly it may be better than they don't know or will never know. He's in pretty deep here and you don't want to be destroying a family. Especially since there is probably a 50/50 chance all he is doing is looking. He may be a serious closet case or he may just be a bi guy who has chosen a heterosexual life, but likes to surf the internet for naked guys now and then. The point is you really have no idea. And it's none of your business.
posted by whoaali at 1:32 PM on February 11, 2009


now what?

Now nothing. You've pointed out that there is no office policy on computer usage.

You took pictures of your boss' browser history. Let me repeat that: you took pictures of your boss' browser history. That's messed up. The only thing you should do is forget you saw anything.

What does the fact that he's looking at TEH GAY sites have to to with it anyway?
posted by Justinian at 1:36 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Your best option is to say nothing and find a job that is a better fit for you.

If your office is so small, how will his reputation be ruined unless you tell them?
If there is no IT policy, he's not breaking it .Also, you have lept to a huge conclusion. Maybe it's his son/brother/nephew/colleague who has a profile on the site and he is keeping tabs on them.

I have been involved in a sexual harassment situation (as a witness - I was asked about something I saw) . MeFi me if you want more info, but this does not fit the bill, IMHO. IANAL.
posted by pointystick at 1:36 PM on February 11, 2009


I found myself in a similar situation with my boss and his computer at a long time ago job. I used to delete his browsing history and cookies every couple of weeks because the poor guy knew nothing about computers. Meh. What did it matter to me?
posted by meerkatty at 1:36 PM on February 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


Delete the photo you took, learn to knock and wait a half-second before entering someone else's office, do not go snooping around other people's browser histories, and read up on ethical behavior. Tell your boss that you accidentally saw what looked like porn on his computer (which is true), that it made you uncomfortable, especially considering that it's gay porn and he has a wife and kids (more about this later), and you'd prefer he not do that when you're around. If the behavior persists you would be within your rights to go over his head to the doctor and say "I think Freddie's watching porn at work, which disturbs me, can you talk to him about it please?".

Your boss hasn't sexually harassed you (he hasn't shown the porn to you, he hasn't mentioned it to you, and from the context he is unlikely to have any interest in positive sexual contact with you), and as others have pointed out, you have taken actions that might amount to sexual harassment against him. What you've done, ie go through his personal information and take copies for potential use to harm him, is much worse. If I was the doctor and you confessed this story to me, I'd tell your boss not to browse porn (or hookup sites etc) during work hours, and I'd seriously consider firing you for being a morale-destroying sneak. Don't.

As for the wife & kids/gay porn dichotomy, well, it's probably not a good thing, but it's not really any of your business. If you have any reason to like the guy, and if you and he have the kind of relationship where you can discuss ethical issues, you could bring it up in the context of asking him "does your wife know you look at gay porn?". Even if he's reading hookup sites, chances are pretty good he's doing nothing more than looking.

Straight married men and women do that too, vaguely browse hookup sites with no real intention of following through on anything. Sometimes it's "oh what might have been"; sometimes as one reads profile after profile of vapid airheads, ugly-stick beating victims, obvious stalker/nutbar types, etc etc, it serves as a reminder that, even if one's spouse is occasionally annoying, being with him/her is a hell of a lot better than being stuck in the dating swampland in one's early middle age.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 1:38 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


You took a picture? Really? Clearly blackmail is the answer to "now what?" It's the only possible justification for your busy-bodyness.

Just nthing this..because as i read through the OP's "question" and read the options that she came up with...I was just waiting for the third shoe to drop:

3) use the pictures i took and use them as blackmail.


I have never read a AskMeFi question where everyone responded the same way before. You are so clearly wrong it makes me stomach hurt.
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 1:40 PM on February 11, 2009 [11 favorites]


I believe in my heart that this will harm our company at some point.

The heart isn't the organ that does the believing. But yeah, snooping around in things that are manifestly none of your business will definitely eventually harm the company eventually, were you to stay. You're doing the right thing by leaving. Be glad you're not being fired, which is what easily could happen if you were caught in the act.
posted by kindall at 1:41 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying this to be mean, but to try and give you some perspective on how this looks to other people: from reading this, you sound absolutely crazy to me. Take a step back and try to look at yourself.
posted by Nattie at 1:49 PM on February 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


People that are posting in this thread in favor of legalistic definitions of "sexual harassment" are missing the point: While there may have been cases in the past in which a similar situation was found to be sexual harassment, those cases are normatively wrong. Nobody wants to live in a society where every little thing leads to endless employment litigation by the easily offended. Viewing porn (and this is really pushing the definition, IMO) at work is unproductive and stupid and may violate the employer's network TOS, but it isn't something that needs to go to court or be the basis for blackmail or any nonsense like that. The harm in sexual harassment comes from its persistence, the imbalance of power in the manager-employee relationship, and the inability of the employee to avoid being subject to it. None of that has happened here, and if her boss is doing something wrong he's only hurting the efficiency with which he works, nothing else. You're the snoop, thus you're in the wrong.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 1:50 PM on February 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


Toomuchpete, the OP said the boss minmized the pages once she walked in so he didn't have those sites up "in a way that co-workers can happen upon." Everyone else has it right. The poster has some issues. Unfortunately I don't think she is able to "just forget about it" as some are advising, doing so seems inconsistent with the poster's character based on the entirety of her post. So poster, I say you are doing the right thing by looking for another job. In addition to keeping your mouth shut in the meantime, I would suggest you find a church or something and speak to someone about what it means to not be the "author of confusion." If you were to spill the beans on your boss, that's what you would be, you will have left that place worse than how you found it, do you want that on your conscience? Be about peace, not confusion. Think of the consequences of what you're suggesting.
posted by GeniPalm at 1:55 PM on February 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


Your question details indicate that you're already committed to finding a new job. Since that is the case, I would go with Option (1), say nothing. I also advice that you extend that phrase to the later part of that option, and say nothing to his boss when you leave.

You mention that the market stinks, but you also say you can't work for someone you don't respect or trust. My suggestion for that is to quit now and walk away. Submit your two-week notice today, tender your resignation, and start hitting the pavement. I have a strong suspicion, based on the details of your post, that continuing to work in that office will only make you more miserable and you stand a greater chance of doing something you might later regret.

You don't need to say exactly why you're leaving. You could just explain that you're seeking a different direction, or pursuing other opportunities. Try to be polite and professional, and walk away.
posted by CancerMan at 1:56 PM on February 11, 2009


About the only thing I can imagine a network admin doing at a medical research lab that could ruin the reputation of the lab doing is either altering data, or releasing private data inappropriately.

Given the situation described, the main predictive factor I see for either of those things happening is not looking at gay hookup sites on a work computer, it's snooping around and then justifying the snooping based on tortured arguments.

In other words, the person most at risk of harming the reputation of the organization would seem to be you.

Rather than worrying about whether or not you should rat-out your boss over this, I have an alternate moral dilemma to pose to you: Which would you prefer to believe about yourself? That you made a mistake in snooping and then reaching the conclusions that you did about your boss, or that you were right to both snoop and reach the conclusions you did and that you are the kind of person who would even consider keeping quiet because the outcome might not be in your own self-interest?
posted by Good Brain at 1:58 PM on February 11, 2009


Wise up kid. It's a big old world out there. You sound very naive and self righteous and neither of these traits will do you any good in the long run.

I do want to say something because I know it's the right thing to do.

It's really not. Really.

And quit snooping.
posted by CunningLinguist at 1:59 PM on February 11, 2009 [10 favorites]


You didn't accidentally see any porn. You snooped into your boss's browser history and saw gay dating site URLs, which you said you didn't look at.

If you are truly concerned about ethics, you should admit to him that you invaded his privacy and get ready to be fired, bad economy or no. Live up to your word, or take it back.
posted by ignignokt at 2:00 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Regardless of the sexuality here and issues that that brings up, the very best thing you can do is delete the picture (although, God knows why you took it in the first place) and forget that it ever happened. Just walk away. That would be the mature and reasonable thing to do. That's what you should do.
posted by ob at 2:01 PM on February 11, 2009


Here's an alternative take: you have full access to your boss's computer, and he has full access to yours. Your boss's bosses are not computer literate, and there is no full-time IT person. All you have is pictures on a screen of a computer you clearly have access to, otherwise you couldn't have taken the pictures.

Here's what will happen if you bring these pictures to your boss's boss: he or she will look at them, and talk with your boss. Your boss will deny ever visiting those sites, will point out that you had full access to the computer, and (based on your going in there to take pictures) will suggest that perhaps you are trying to get him fired for some reason.

At that point, it will become his word against yours. Since he's a married man, and the boss, his word will carry more weight than yours. Additionally, since you're going in there to make a case for sexual harassment, you'll look like an idiot -- because if he is gay, then what would be the point of showing you gay dating sites? That's, quite literally, the opposite of what someone attempting to come on to you would be showing you.

So everyone in this thread is already correct that this whole thing was none of your business; by your own admission he's not breaking any company laws, went out of his way to NOT show you what he was looking at, and the last time I checked a man being gay isn't a crime or a relationship deal-breaker. But beyond that, you will get fired, and nobody will believe you -- nor should they, because if you were trying to set him up, you'd be in the exact same position you're in now (no witnesses, no evidence trail beyond something you could do yourself on his computer, and focusing on humiliation of the target rather than something a tangible crime.)

Pack it in, delete the pictures, and move on with your life (and at another company) -- and next time stay out of other people's business.
posted by davejay at 2:02 PM on February 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


Oh for heaven's sake, how old are you? Is this your fist job? For all you know, the doctors who own the business also peruse gay porn, S&M images, and who knows what else. If it does not directly affect you - that is to say, boss doesn't approach you and say "Hey, would you like to look at some of these pictures online with me? And perhaps re-enact some of the scenes?" - then it is none of your business. I've been in the corporate working world since I was 16 years old (unlike a lot of teens my age, my first job was in a corporate, white-collar, Fortune 500 setting), and since then I've seen behavior that would no doubt take the top of your head off. I learned long ago that people are different, people are weird, and some people are downright bizarre, but if it doesn't affect you personally on a day-to-day basis, then who cares? Get used to it - a lot of professionals have girlfriends on the side, they post personal ads on sex sites, they enjoy looking at girly magazines. That doesn't mean they are incapable of running an office or business. Heck, in some cases it might actually help them - they can blow off whatever unusual "steam" they have by looking at porn and it clears their mind and allows them to focus on the work at hand.
posted by Oriole Adams at 2:03 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Quick correction to what I posted.

Make:

"because if he is gay, then what would be the point of showing you gay dating sites? That's, quite literally, the opposite of what someone attempting to come on to you would be showing you."

Into:

"because if he is gay, why would be be sexually harassing you -- and if not, why would he be surfing gay sites and not showing them to you? That's, quite literally, the opposite of what someone attempting to come on to you would do."

Carry on.
posted by davejay at 2:06 PM on February 11, 2009


Dammit. Also:

"a man being gay isn't a crime or a relationship job deal-breaker."
posted by davejay at 2:08 PM on February 11, 2009


I'm not a big proponent of 'stop snitchin' but this is none of your business. Delete the photo, stop snooping on other people's computers and unclench. Good luck in the job search.
posted by fixedgear at 2:10 PM on February 11, 2009


To add to Inspector.Gadget's point, even with the extremely legalistic definitions of sexual harassment, you'd have a hard time. Even the most stringent of courts consider little things like "context" and people get away with even saying dispicable things a few times before it counts for much in the eyes of the court. Here, the context was you surprising him, twice on the one day, and seeing him looking at a hook-up site, not even porn. You couldn't even be sure that what you saw was this horrible thing you thought you might have seen, so you went and exposed yourself to it. Not sexual harassment.

Also, ask yourself this, would you care so much if you found out that your boss had a female mistress and was sending explicit emails to her while at work?
posted by wuzandfuzz at 2:15 PM on February 11, 2009


follow-up from the OP
First of all I would like to start out by saying that I am not homophobic and the unethical behavior I was referring to was his cheating on and lying to his wife and using company time and resources to plan his encounters. He also leaves to “get coffee” or “go to lunch” for hours at a time which could be related to the hook-ups. Has society degraded to the point where monogyny is not possible and sleeping around is considered “normal?” The general consensus from the commenters seems to be “everybody’s doing it” and “don’t be a prude.”

The first exposure to his site (which had softcore tators on the site) was not due to “snooping.” HE CALLED ME INTO HIS OFFICE. When I looked at his history I did not break any locks or hack his computer, I merely walked in and looked at his history, and the sites in that history contained hardcore taters, and it is sexual harassment to expose people in the workplace to sexual material against their will, especially if that person finds taters (straight or gay) to be offensive.

I can not describe the specifics of what the practice I work at does, but I must reiterate that ethics are important, and I have the patients’ best interest in mind and that is why I don’t think that this man should work there anymore. I would not take action for the sake of being malicious or hurting other people. I agree with most of the commenters that I should probably just leave quietly, but not because this behavior is acceptable, but because I don’t think that I can have a positive impact on the situation and I don’t think that my career should suffer b/c my boss is a sleezball who can’t keep it in his pants.
posted by jessamyn at 2:16 PM on February 11, 2009 [9 favorites]


Genuine question with no desire to derail: what's a tater? I googled and am still clueless.
posted by CunningLinguist at 2:19 PM on February 11, 2009 [20 favorites]


I'm searching for an angle this hasn't been covered n-times above. Best I can come up with is:

MAYBE the way a person gets ahead in that close knit, research community that you speak of is to make contacts with the other researchers by hanging out in gay hook-up websites. MAYBE all the doctors you work for discuss business development strategy in the "Hairy Beary Muscle Doctors" chat group on that site.

Since he's you boss, I'm assuming he knows more your industry than you do ... so question your statement "If this information got to the public, it could devastate this company and the doctors who own it." and "...made me question his ability to make an ethical decision when it comes to the work we do on a daily basis".

Feeling beaten up enough ?
Good luck.
posted by Xhris at 2:19 PM on February 11, 2009


Taters?

The general consensus from the commenters seems to be “everybody’s doing it” and “don’t be a prude.”

I would have characterized the general consensus as "it's not your fucking business; you're not the marriage police."
posted by mr_roboto at 2:20 PM on February 11, 2009 [38 favorites]


The general consensus from the commenters seems to be “everybody’s doing it” and “don’t be a prude.”

No, the general consensus is IT'S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.

and it is sexual harassment to expose people in the workplace to sexual material against their will

Against your will? You specifically went into his history folder. Wtf?
posted by meerkatty at 2:20 PM on February 11, 2009 [18 favorites]


I merely walked in and looked at his history, and the sites in that history contained hardcore taters, and it is sexual harassment to expose people in the workplace to sexual material against their will...

So, explain again how you saw it "against your will" when YOU walked in and YOU browsed his history very deliberately?

And WTF is a tator/tater?
posted by tristeza at 2:23 PM on February 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


cheating on and lying to his wife
The only way I can figure out that you know this is that his wife told you specifically how happy she is that her husband would never look at gay dating sites.
to plan his encounters
I tink that you should have mentioned in your original post that you know for sure that he is having encounters
for hours at a time which could be related to the hook-ups
Could be? Are you sure of this, or not?
Has society degraded to the point where monogyny is not possible
Whether or not he is polyamourous or not is not your business.
posted by pointystick at 2:24 PM on February 11, 2009 [10 favorites]


No, the general consensus of the commenters is that it's none of your damn business.
posted by catlet at 2:26 PM on February 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


The first exposure to his site (which had softcore tators on the site) was not due to “snooping.” HE CALLED ME INTO HIS OFFICE. When I looked at his history I did not break any locks or hack his computer, I merely walked in and looked at his history,

This makes no sense as you describe it. He called you into his office to show you his web history? Or while showing you something else you saw his history?

Either way, none of that justifies you sneaking back in to check his history and then photograph it.

Based solely on what you've written here, you shouldn't contact a lawyer at all, because, and I'm saying this in a nice tone, you have no clue of the legal hurdles, hoops, turns and cans of worms you'd be opening. You have no proof of what he's doing and in order to get proof you'll have to sink to levels you probably don't want to go.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:28 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


The general consensus from the commenters seems to be “everybody’s doing it” and “don’t be a prude.”


It's really not. The consensus - and you should know it's hard to engender such unanimity on Metafilter - is that you are overreacting and seemingly blind to the unpleasant overtones of your own behavior. You speak as if you were personally harmed, when in fact it was you who went spying. (Taking pictures even!)
Maybe he shouldn't be surfing dating sites at work, but really, this isn't a capital crime. Hang out in the average workplace a few more years and I guarantee you'll see so very much worse.
And maybe he's cheating on his wife, but maybe not. How do you know what his marriage is about? Maybe they have an arrangement. It's none of your business. Why is that so hard to understand?
posted by CunningLinguist at 2:28 PM on February 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


When I looked at his history I did not break any locks or hack his computer, I merely walked in and looked at his history

Yeah, except you were looking for it. That's snooping.

I'd be uncomfortable working for someone I knew was cheating on his spouse, so I won't say you should be thrilled to work for him, and it would probably make sense to find a new job. He sounds skeazy, and if he's cheating on his wife, that sucks for her. But plenty of people are able to behave ethically in one context and cheat on their spouse in another. You must already know that everyone has moral failings. You happen to know the particularly juicy and gossip-worthy moral failing of your boss, but each doctor in his practice will necessarily have some type of moral failing of his/her own. I'd rather have a doctor who was cheating on his wife than a doctor who was too arrogant to ask for another doctor's opinion when it came to my medical care. So all I mean is, do what's best for you, but I'm not sure I see how being a bad husband translates to being a bad doctor.
posted by Meg_Murry at 2:30 PM on February 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


the unethical behavior I was referring to was his cheating on and lying to his wife and using company time and resources to plan his encounters.

Really? So you know exactly what he and his wife have agreed is okay in their marriage?

And unless his wife is your sister or something, whether or not he's cheating is still none of your business. And if she is your sister, it's still arguable that it's your business.

I'll bet you some amount of money that some of your co-workers think some non-work thing you do is unethical/immoral/wrong. Should they come and tell you how to run your life for the good of the company?

When I looked at his history I did not break any locks or hack his computer, I merely walked in and looked at his history, and the sites in that history contained hardcore taters, and it is sexual harassment to expose people in the workplace to sexual material against their will,

You willingly went and and brought up the history on his computer. It did not magically leap into the hallway, drag you into the office, and force you to look at it.

And no, it is not sexual harassment to get caught once or twice looking at sites with nekkid people on them. The harassment has to fall into a pattern, and not be "Whoops! Caught me! Window minimized!"
posted by rtha at 2:31 PM on February 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


"the unethical behavior I was referring to was his cheating on and lying to his wife and using company time and resources to plan his encounters."

You don't know he is CHEATING on his wife.
...you only more or less know he looked at websites.

You don't know he is LYING to his wife.
...for all you know, they have a deal where it's fine for him to look at whatever he wants to so long as he doesn't do it on their computer at home.


"I can not describe the specifics of what the practice I work at does, but I must reiterate that ethics are important"

And yet, you are completely unable to see how your own ethics are shady.


"I don’t think that my career should suffer b/c my boss is a sleezball who can’t keep it in his pants."

You don't know that. All you know is he looked at websites.
posted by 2oh1 at 2:31 PM on February 11, 2009 [17 favorites]


You deliberately violated his privacy. Sure, he could have been smarter about protecting it himself, but you, by your own volition, snuck into his office and looked at his browsing history. Then you took a photo of it to do __?__ with.

Why? Why the hell did you do that? What did you want from it?

I'm serious, what the hell did you want to do with that? Get yourself fired with prejudice? Get yourself some hot gay porn? Break up a family? Start an epic AskMe thread?

If it's making you this crazy and causing your judgment to be this wild then you have to quit this job. Just don't apply for a new one at my company.
posted by Ookseer at 2:35 PM on February 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


To Anonymous: If you comment again, please explain what tators/taters are. I'm confused on that one. Thanks!
posted by 2oh1 at 2:36 PM on February 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


With your followup, you completely contradict what you laid out in the original question. Originally, you said you walked into his office, to ask a question about a project. In the follow up, you said he called you in. Which is it?

That aside, you completely missed the point of what everyone here is saying. No one told you that you are being a prude. People defined what constitutes sexual harrassment, and told you to mind your own business. Between the follow up and original post, I think you have a lot to learn about not blowing things out of proportion.
posted by kellyblah at 2:37 PM on February 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Nnthing. Forget you saw anything. Mind your own business. I don't usually Nnth because I think it's a waste of meta-space, but maybe if enough of us advise you, you'll listen, not screw over your boss, and get your nose out of other people's business.
posted by dchrssyr at 2:42 PM on February 11, 2009


Sorry to be late to the party...Three things: 1) What everyone else said.

2) You don't know if he's cheating on his wife. You should endeavor to continue not knowing.

3) So..umm.forgive my ignorance, but what are taters? I really did try googling it myself (at home, with the blinds closed, in possible anticipation of the nature of the answer) and could come up only with potatoes. Urban dictionary also refers me to potatoes.

4) (ok, 4 things) Nobody questioned that ethics are important in your company's area of work. What many people (including me) question is the idea that anyone would view this as relevant to your boss' ethics at work or by extension, the company's integrity and trustworthiness.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 2:42 PM on February 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


At this point, it looks like you can go two ways with this thread:


a) hmm, maybe I should stop and rethink how I went about all this, I can't remember the last time I saw such a common consensus in an ask-me thread.

b) I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER THAN TO ASK A BUNCH OF DEVIANT SOCIETY-DESTROYING PERVS!

Looks like you're gonna go with b, but go ahead and try out a for awhile, just as a thought experiment.






also: mmmm, softcore taters.
posted by the bricabrac man at 2:44 PM on February 11, 2009 [19 favorites]


The aspect of your reputation you should be concerned about is whether or not people think they can trust you to not poke around in their computer files while they're not present.
posted by 0xFCAF at 2:45 PM on February 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


Your post title "I accidentally saw porn on my boss's computer..." is wrong.

It should be, "I snooped for porn on my boss's computer, but only found gay dating sites, and now am jumping to conclusion after conclusion after conclusion."

Also, "He quickly minimized the window on computer, and I am sure he doesn't know what I saw." If you're so sure he doesn't know that you saw, that he specifically was trying to make sure you didn't see what you saw, how the hell is that sexual harassment?
posted by Constant Reader at 2:46 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Without knowing why the OP did what she did, I can only deduce that she took a photo of the browsing history for use as evidence if/when she brought this to the attention of her boss's superiors. She writes that her boss would know how to erase the history himself and therefore give plausible reason that the OP is lying, so she took the picture as proof.

However, as davejay pointed out, it probably wouldn't mean much given the circumstances.

My guess about "tater/tator" is that it is a euphemism for the scrotum, since I can imagine the shape and size of Tater Tots to be somewhat similiar.

For the OP: I reiterate that you should just leave, quietly. I'm sorry you feel that life will be hard without a job in today's market, but I'm sure you'll find another place of employment. If you're concerned about your boss's ethics bringing down the laboratory, I feel you should let your boss be the one that "exposes himself," not you. Particularly if the circumstances in which you obtained the evidence of his breach of ethics is, in its essence, unethical.
posted by CancerMan at 2:46 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Has society degraded to the point where monogyny is not possible and sleeping around is considered “normal?”

No, in fact if you peruse some of the RelationshipFilter questions that have been posted on this site, you'll find there's a strong consensus against members of married or committed couples having sex outside of those relationships, unless there's a clear agreement otherwise between the couple beforehand.

The question at hand is not "is sleeping around OK." It's "is outing someone who's sleeping around OK." Those are two very different issues. If your boss had come here and asked whether his actions were OK, we'd very likely say they were not (as, indeed, many people in this thread have already said). But the question posed in this thread is not "what should your boss do," it's "what should you do."

When I looked at his history I did not break any locks or hack his computer, I merely walked in and looked at his history

I am constantly astonished at the number of people who believe that just because it's technically easy to do something, that makes it OK to do that thing. If I leave my front door unlocked, and someone comes in and takes my TV, I might be stupid for leaving my door unlocked, but the person who took my TV is just as guilty—both legally and morally—of theft as if he would be if I had locked my door.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:50 PM on February 11, 2009 [24 favorites]


Well, your reply clears up why you wouldn't just approach him directly - because you've already assumed the absolute worst about him and the situation. I'd suggest you think about that, and try to divide up what you actually know (that he looks at gay dating sites in the office) and what you only imagine (that he's hooking up on company time, that he's a terrible husband and father, that he would do other, job-related unethical things, etc.)

Based on what you *actually* know, the situation really doesn't warrant anything other than a pointed hint that he's not as discreet as he probably should be. And even that assumes that you care about him enough to do him a solid.

I can imagine many things about you that would explain your reaction (and many of the posters above are doing so) but it isn't any more helpful to you than your assumptions about your boss are to him. I would, however, advise you to sit down and think about exactly why this is pushing your buttons, and try to compare that with the actual facts.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:53 PM on February 11, 2009


I think the root of this is that your morality (and personal opinions about your boss's conduct) is mixing unnecessarily with your profession and your opinions on professionalism. If you want a job where morality is tied more closely to what you are doing and leading you towards value judgements, I think a religious institution or faith-based NGO is best. You aren't in a position to call your boss out; this isn't in your list of responsibilities. Your boss is not sexually harassing you, and you aren't the person to enforce the way your employers' resources are used. Find something else to do.
posted by arimathea at 2:53 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow your follow up makes you sound even more judgmental than your original post. You're now accusing him of cheating on his wife (and lying to her about being gay) and using company time for gay hookups. You have no evidence of any of these things. I am a bisexual woman, if I was looking at gay porn I wouldn't be lying to my boyfriend or cheating on him, I might be looking for a 3rd party for a valentine's threesome since - your boss might be doing the same.
I also have a gaydar account/profile, not because I'm a gay man looking for other gay men but because I have a friend who is a gay man and I wanted to look at his profile.

There are so many reasons why he could have gay dating sites in his profile. Maybe he is a closet case that's cheating on his wife with gay 'taters' (another vote for wtf are taters?!) in his lunch 'hour' or maybe its something else, you have no evidence of anything you're accusing him of. All you have is a photo of his browser history, it proves nothing.
posted by missmagenta at 2:55 PM on February 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Stop playing the victim! You went into his office to snoop. No one forced you to do this!

He also leaves to “get coffee” or “go to lunch” for hours at a time which could be related to the hook-ups.
Or maybe he's uh, getting some coffee or like, getting some lunch. People apparently do that when they're at work.

Regardless, even if he is a cheating bastard who has a proclivity for gay porn (taters even!), as everyone has said, the main point is that it's none of your business. And a person's sexual orientation or infidelity has nothing to do with the ethics of being a doctor/researcher.

It's probably too cheeky right now, but can someone eventually put up an AskMe: What is a tater in the context of this AskMe question?
posted by like_neon at 2:58 PM on February 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


My 2c:

1) Adultery is not illegal in the US in any appreciable way. Yes, even Michigan.

2) In many companies, you would be the one fired for the events described here. I doubt he had his URL history up on his un-screensaver'ed monitor. You took specific and intentional actions to find your information. I shudder to think what this question would have been if he had cleared his history.
posted by rhizome at 2:58 PM on February 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I can't believe you took a picture of the screen. You need to mind your own business... god, I'm so glad I don't work with you. People's personal lives are not your concern.
posted by lottie at 2:59 PM on February 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


I must reiterate that ethics are important, and I have the patients’ best interest in mind and that is why I don’t think that this man should work there anymore.

Most people don't care about their doctor's personal life. I don't care if my physician is gay, straight, bi, asexual or if he's in a happy marriage or an unhappy one regardless of the agreed, or not agreed upon, sexual politics. As long as I get the treatment/advice that I expect, his personal life is none of my business or even of any interest.

And ethics is not defined as 'what I think is right'.

Just be quiet and look for another job. The economy sucks, but it's worse to keep working in a job that is filled with mistrust, disrespect and downplayed hostility.
posted by slimepuppy at 3:04 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


First of all I would like to start out by saying that I am not homophobic and the unethical behavior I was referring to was his cheating on and lying to his wife and using company time and resources to plan his encounters. He also leaves to “get coffee” or “go to lunch” for hours at a time which could be related to the hook-ups. Has society degraded to the point where monogyny is not possible and sleeping around is considered “normal?” The general consensus from the commenters seems to be “everybody’s doing it” and “don’t be a prude.”

Your company exists to make a profit and perform whatever other functions are agreed upon by the management and shareholders (if any). It is entirely possible to do any and all of the above while receiving copious amounts of extramarital blowjobs. Your concern ends there. He isn't your friend, he's your boss.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 3:04 PM on February 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


You're making a HUUUGE leap to assume that a long lunch is directly related to his web-surfing habits. Insert old adage about assuming here. It would pretty embarrassing for you to find out that his long lunches are with professional colleagues or collaborators after you call him out for being a skeezeball, yes?

When I looked at his history I did not break any locks or hack his computer, I merely walked in and looked at his history, and the sites in that history contained hardcore taters, and it is sexual harassment to expose people in the workplace to sexual material against their will, especially if that person finds taters (straight or gay) to be offensive.


You saw a half-second of...something possibly unprofessional...when he called you into his office. You then intentionally sought out more information. How on earth was this "against your will?" Quite the reverse -- you willfully chose to investigate further.

Look, you saw something personal and you are shocked. It's okay to be shocked, and it's okay to be uncomfortable knowing something personal about your boss. If I caught my boss looking at porn, I'd tell her that I'd appreciate her being more careful about the TMI 'cause ew. But to go straight into all of these elaborate justifications for snooping and extrapolating to his greater sense of ethics is premature and unfair.

Put yourself in a somewhat comparable scenario -- say he'd glimpsed you reading a socially conservative magazine and henceforth assumed that you were sympathetic to nutjobs like Jim Adkisson? That'd be incredibly inappropriate and unfair, right?

If you want to keep your job, it would be perfectly okay to tell him that you glimpsed some personal stuff when he called you into your office and that it made you uncomfortable. You can tell him that you're sensitive, that you have a very strong sense of keeping work and personal stuff separate, or whatever. Supervisors adapt to the sensitivities of their direct reports and colleagues all the time. (I don't yell JESUS FUCKING CHRIST in front of my religious co-workers, for instance.)

You are going to encounter examples of unethical behavior wherever you go, often much more insidious and cruel than anything that could be "proven" with a photo of browser history. I'm not saying that you should be a doormat about your principles, I just suggest that you think about whether storming off in a huff is really for the greatest good.

From context, I thought tators were maybe something further proving the content of the sites in the browsing history? Like a list of cookies or something?
posted by desuetude at 3:07 PM on February 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Man, am I getting a bad rap here!
posted by hardcore taters at 3:08 PM on February 11, 2009 [123 favorites]


A tater?
posted by dydecker at 3:10 PM on February 11, 2009 [10 favorites]


(Tators/taters: testicles? Urban dictionary seems to suggest so, see "dick tators".)

And to properly post with an answer: it's not your business, you seem to suffer from some serious filtering and rewriting of reality to reinforce your poor rationalizations of petty righteousness, and you need to get a new job. Shesh.
posted by Iosephus at 3:11 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I dunno, seems like high horses have shown up on both sides--in the question and in the responses.

I don't see any reason to act like you're Sandra Bullock in The Net as you're doing, but maybe you're more upset about how this reflects on you, rather than your company. It's legitimate to feel disillusioned if you were proud of giving eight hours of your daily life over to toiling for a committed family man whom you imagined to be poring thoughtfully over your Microsoft Excel reports, instead of committing CruisingForSex.com to his cache.

I'm a straight guy, and if I were the supervisor of a young employee, it might be a nice gesture not to be hunting for ass on Adult Friend Finder and drooling over the asterisk-shielded hindquarters of Samantha, 19 and the Flash advertisements claiming she wants to meet me, while someone was in the next room. Unfortunately, I think a lot of respondents have gotten carried away looking for a chance to make this thread the next great gay rights battle. This and the "blackmail" charges seem misplaced.

But this camp is right to say that no good can come of this kind of snooping around into someone's personal life, and I don't understand why you think it is inevitable to be drawn into a maelstrom of controversy over it. Save this kind of whistleblowing for when you have to expose PG&E giving people cancer, not tattling on your colleague's victimless weaknesses of the flesh.
posted by Kirklander at 3:13 PM on February 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


Lots of people view Internet porn. Plenty of them use their work computer. Really, not an issue, in and of itself. His sexual orientation, potential adultery, etc. is not your concern at all.

He's wasting company time. Not great, but as long as his work gets done, probably none of your concern.

He's viewing porn, visible to visitors to his office, during office hours. This may contribute to a hostile work environment. You are obviously offended.
- Speak to him, or email him, and ask him to reorient his monitor, or refrain from viewing potentially offensive material at times when you might reasonably visit his office.
- If you feel genuinely harassed, ask his supervisor to resolve the problem.

I believe it's not legal for there to be repercussions for you. You might want to talk to a lawyer before acting on this.

You shouldn't have to leave a job because of this. You should be able to do your work without worrying about walking into your boss' office and seeing porn. Your boss is behaving inappropriately.
posted by theora55 at 3:17 PM on February 11, 2009


I think tater must be a typo, although I'm not sure of what.

The only other data point I have is that around here it's redneck slang for shapely buttocks, which makes no sense in this context.
posted by electroboy at 3:20 PM on February 11, 2009


The logistics of the situation were explained very well above. You have full access to the system, there is no IT to check on these things, and anything you do could easily backfire. On top of that, this is no reason to even consider a lawsuit, we have too many of those already.

As for the morality, I think the above answers really are skewed by the fact that you mentioned it was gay porn. Between that, and "taters", I would presume that you are likely in the American South. Perhaps part of your concern is that you live in a very conservative area where it would offend most people. Still, it is his life to lead. If he is discovered, then so be it. Do not be the one to stir this pot, it will do you no good. Delete the picture.

However, there is something that most answers have missed. Gay, straight, or anything in between, it is not okay to look at porn during work. There is a difference between casual goofing off and explicit materials. I would be disgusted to know any of my co-workers looked at porn in the office. Not so much because of the porn, but because of the typical actions associated with such.

Let me restate this for emphasis. Regardless of sexual orientation, pornography at work is wrong. However, you are not the one to police it, there is nothing you can do, and ethical judgment over this will only cause you headaches. Take some aspirin.

If you really feel that you cannot work with this man any longer, best of luck finding new work.
posted by Saydur at 3:27 PM on February 11, 2009


I think I should revise my earlier comment : You are clearly still a bigot & I'd fire you. But now I think you should technically tell your boss's boss. Just don't make a big deal & never admit that you cruised his browsing history. You will surely be fired if anyone learns you spied upon him, but likely not if you can play it off.

I'd guess your boss is looking for gay connections from work because he doesn't want his wife knowing. If I were your boss's boss, then I'd want to know. If I knew, then I'd check to see if his performance has improved or declined recently. If it has declined, then I'd speak to him about his performance, and maybe find tricks to improve it. You boss's boss might, for example, let him use a laptop with a fingerprint scanner to login. I know you said no one is that technical, but hey, they might also just have a good chat between buddies about his marriage.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:31 PM on February 11, 2009


OP.

Has society degraded to the point where monogyny is not possible and sleeping around is considered “normal?”

No. But society has grown to the point where we have learned how to separate someone's sexual preference and personal, private behavior from their ability and freedom to make a living.

You can hold him accountable for browsing personal sites directly in front of you in a way that is cavalier, for being overtly personal in front of you, and you can even be angry at him or report him for taking long breaks away from the office, if it is out of the ordinary from what other people in the office do, if it is affecting his performance, or if it is against company policy.

However, it sounds more to me like in the course of a normal day, he was slightly indiscreet about something, you noticed, and now have made wild leaps of logic and assumptions about his personal character and his ability to his job, and furthermore, have now decided to go after him because of it.

Your first post says you noticed it quickly, and he minimized it, meaning he was trying to keep it out of your face. The title even says you accidentally saw it. Don't conflate it to be worse now that the community here has called you on it. Be honest with yourself.

It is none of your business. It will never be any of your business. Pursuing this further is only going to make things worse for everybody. If you can't work with someone whom you find to be ethically deplorable, get a new job. Yes, it may take a while because the economy sucks. Those of us who are in unhappy in our jobs right now are all in the same boat.

I've worked places where people have made assumptions about me because I'm different. It's not fair, and it has really made my life hell in some cases. I'm not a big fan of people who secretly cheat on their wives either, but you have NO way of knowing if that's actually happening. I might make some personal assumptions myself based on what you've seen, but that's as far as I'd let it go, and I'd also tell myself to getthefuckoverit because it's none of my business and I can't know what's actually happening, and I'd want someone who decided similar things about me to do the same. I am not psychic and I'm not the morality police. Neither are you.
posted by pazazygeek at 3:31 PM on February 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Other people's sexuality and relationships are none of your business.

As far as ethics are concerned, yours seem worse. At least he had the decency to recognize there should be boundaries between his sexuality and you and minimized the screen.

You marched right in there and took pictures.

That's a wrong thing to do. Why don't you know that?
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:36 PM on February 11, 2009 [13 favorites]


Okay, here's the thing. When I was 25 I would've freaked out, felt insanely uncomfortable that he brought sex into the workplace and judged him. I wouldn't have known what to do either. I just would *not* have understood how he could do such a thing as a professional.

At 42, now far more understanding of men and their sex drives (as well as myself), I would cut him some slack and pretend I didn't see it. This is REALLY not your business unless he's trying to force you to see it or his porn habit is directly affecting his job performance and the office environment in some way. I wholeheartedly disagree with you that looking at porn has anything to do with his ability to make good business decisions. If anything, he might be someone who is very sexually frustrated or going through something personal and desperately trying to relax.

For men, sex is a high biological need -- right up there with air and water. That doesn't make them monsters, it's just a fact of life. Entire kingdoms have been lost due to libido. I've talked with a lot of men I know about this, and personally, I'm thankful I'm not a guy sometimes... I think it would be horrible to feel such a strong need all the time and feel so controlled by it. It would be so distracting and frustrating. I mean, sex is *great* but I know I can go without it for months and barely think about it... it's as though my sexual self is able to go into hibernation. When I tell men that, they look at me with total disbelief that it's possible. So as I said, as long as he's keeping it to himself (you did go on his computer, he wasn't watching it on yours) I'd cut the guy some slack, respect his privacy and just let him be.
posted by miss lynnster at 3:37 PM on February 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


Also, I would not say that porn equals cheating on his wife. It may just be fantasy. Which is his private business.

Oh, and lastly... how would you like it if someone was taking screen shots of your computer and judging what you're doing in your off time? Going to your boss about it? Judging that maybe you can't do your job because of something not job related?
posted by miss lynnster at 3:39 PM on February 11, 2009


Anonymous, listen to me carefully. Your boss takes hours for lunch and for coffee breaks. Let's make a big assumption, and say he is cheating on his wife. Okay so now you have a married guy, closeted and having to hide it form everyone he knows. And he takes hours off work to do this. Do you think his mind is no his work? No, absolutely not. Congrats you have the best job in the world. Just don't do something stupid, like, oh, telling on him, or ever mentioning it again. You're given a gift, and that gift is a boss who has so many other things going that he doesn't even lock his door or his computer! Many more years down the road, when you have a boss texting you at 4:49AM (before they go out jogging) and then wanting you to revise a budget by the time he gets in the office at 9AM, you're going to think back to this spring and summer, when you took off a long lunch to have a walk in the park. took Friday off to see that movie you wanted to see and showed up hung over from all those great concerts you went to, you're going to think back and say "Wow I really want my closeted, married boss back." Everyone is going to be talking about the shitty temp agencies they worked in, saddled with student loan debt because none of them could get a real job. You're working at a company that doesn't have any formal policies and allows you the freedom to pursue whatever you want.

So if this was a serious question, please consider how you'll want to look back on this in 10 years. Do you really think you're "changing society's values?" No you're not, gay men marry and cheat on their wives even in the most oppressive countries. Hell men marry and cheat on their wives when it will surely result in the dealth penalty. Do you think that the sexual drive is weak enough to break over a simple job loss? No, so you're really accomplishing nothing. But what you can do, instead of snooping, is grab a good book. I recommend the new Kindle. Bring it to your desk, enjoy it, go shopping when the weather is warm. Whatever you do, don't ruin this gift from above.
posted by geoff. at 3:40 PM on February 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


Taters
posted by peacheater at 3:41 PM on February 11, 2009


Also it was a dating site, not porn.
posted by CunningLinguist at 3:50 PM on February 11, 2009


...the unethical behavior I was referring to was his cheating on and lying to his wife and using company time and resources to plan his encounters. He also leaves to “get coffee” or “go to lunch” for hours at a time which could be related to the hook-ups.

Pray tell, how do you know that it's a case of cheating/lying? That it's nothing more than "coffee" or "lunch."

Or, maybe he's arranging for a ménage à trois for the two of them.

Again, none of your business.
posted by ericb at 3:53 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


You don't know if what your boss is doing violates the agreement of his marriage, so you're in no position to take a stand to defend it. He could be browsing profiles for giggles and titillation, as I and my boyfriend do, despite happy monogamy. Maybe he has an open relationship. Maybe he's gay, and his wife is asexual, and they agreed to marry because they both wanted the hetro family advantages. Maybe his wife is into three directional polyandry and told him to find a third. Maybe he's trying to get his shy virgin brother a boyfriend. In the event he is doing furtive adultery, it's still none of your business, just like your boss shouldn't be firing you over what they think of your orientation and marital status.
posted by Phalene at 3:55 PM on February 11, 2009


This strikes me as one of those questions where the OP didn't actually want advice, the OP wanted validation for her behavior.

OP: You probably read Ask Metafilter fairly often, no? How often does AskMe speak so uniformly with one voice? Not often. I would strong advise taking that into account and minding my own business.

Oh, and stop snooping.
posted by Justinian at 4:07 PM on February 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


Just chiming in to say: I had some friends in San Diego who referred to breasts as "taters."
posted by coolguymichael at 4:23 PM on February 11, 2009


Here's how it could have gone:

You: Hey, boss, I have a question. I was--hey, that window that you just closed didn't look like a professional site. If it's what I think it is, I have to say that I'm very uncomfortable with it.

Boss: Shoot. Sorry. It's...not what you think. Really. It won't happen again.

The End.

Your extreme reaction (worried about your safety, even) suggests that you have some beliefs that will make you ill-suited for many common workplace challenges.

Delete the photo. If you talk to the boss's boss (which I don't recommend), describe only the windows you saw getting minimized. Anything more and yes, your reputation will be harmed. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn't hire you, and I mean that in a helpful way.
posted by PatoPata at 4:24 PM on February 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Surely someone who works in medical research could use correct anatomical terms rather than puerile euphemisms!

Perhaps you should not only get another job, but change careers altogether.
posted by jgirl at 4:25 PM on February 11, 2009 [14 favorites]


You weren't sexually harassed, it's not porn (by your description), you snooped, and you're speculating about your boss's private life.

How is this effecting his work? Are his decision-making capabilities somehow reduced? If not, leave it alone - get another job if you have to, but recognise that this is your issue, not your boss's, and something you need to work on unless you plan on being offended again, and again, and again (unless you limit your job search to Amish or Mormon or fundy Pentecostal or similar firms).
posted by goo at 4:27 PM on February 11, 2009


Just chiming in to say: I had some friends in San Diego who referred to breasts as "taters."

I believe the taters (both hard- and soft-core) were alleged to have appeared in ads on gay male dating sites. Makes breasts somewhat unlikely, I'd think.
posted by dersins at 4:27 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just checked the browser history. My suspicion of the site I saw was confirmed. And then I saw about 10 more explicit sites in the history, mostly geared toward gay men.


Others have most probably said this, but mind your own business. How fucking creepy.

Now to your question, how can this possibly affect anything?
posted by mattoxic at 4:28 PM on February 11, 2009


Has society degraded to the point where monogyny is not possible and sleeping around is considered “normal?”

Do you know what the work monogyny means? It means being married to one woman at a time. Do you have evidence that your boss has more than one wife? How is this related to your question in any way?
posted by betterton at 4:31 PM on February 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


Yes, betterton, I forgot about that.

One who works in research should also be able to use the word "monogamy" when appropriate.
posted by jgirl at 4:36 PM on February 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


OP, if you're still reading...

You're clearly upset. What you learned about your boss has made you feel strong, negative emotions, and you no longer want to work with him. There is nothing wrong with that. People have unique triggers, and you have every right to remove yourself from a situation that makes you unhappy and uncomfortable. You don't have to be "right," you just have to be unhappy. Life is short. If you're miserable, if you don't see a way to change that, and if you can afford to make that choice, by all means - leave your job.

That said, I do want to see if I can explain why people are so upset with you. First, they're starting with the assumption that everyone has a private life that is separate from their work life. I may have an employer, but I do not have an owner. My employer can demand that I do my job well and behave in certain ways while I am at work, but he cannot demand that I obey his commands while in the privacy of my own home. If my boss tried to tell me what kind of relationship I could have with my wife, I would quit. The people who are reacting so strongly to you in this thread are starting from that initial assumption that your boss has a right to live his life in whatever manner he pleases as long as he continues to do the work that he is paid to do in a reasonable manner.

That is why they are outraged that you snuck into his office and took a photograph of his computer. You try to justify this by saying that "I did not break any locks or hack his computer, I merely walked in and looked at his history." Why did you wait for him to leave his office in order to do it? You waited because you knew that he would not want you there doing what you did. He may not have had as strong an expectation of privacy as if it were his locked, private diary, sitting in the trunk of his car. However, he did have some expectation of privacy, based in part on the fact that he can reasonably expect you not to use his computer without his permission for purposes that go against his wishes, and in part on the fact that most people would like to be able to trust their friends and coworkers. When you snuck around behind his back, you violated his trust in you.

Finally, you try to suggest that this IS affecting his work. You do this in two ways. First, you say that his long lunches are actually illicit trysts. Were his long lunches a problem before you discovered the offending cites in his history? If not, then consider whether you are really picking up on a productivity problem or whether you are looking to justify your intense emotional reaction. Second, you say that the business will be harmed should his (presumed) philandering come to light. If this is a genuine concern, you may not be wrong to bring it up to him. However, I would wait and not make such a decision in the heat of the moment. Here, too, you are in danger of projecting your feelings onto reality.

When you're less upset, see if you can find some objective basis for believing that the business is either being affected by his behavior or runs an unjustifiable risk of being so affected in the future. Without a reasonable belief in this, I do not think you ought to do anything about what you saw.

By the way, if he tried to keep you from seeing these links, then a claim that you are being sexually harassed seems truly far-fetched. I second those who have pointed out that you sought out the information voluntarily. A single glimpse is all that you were subjected to.

Finally, in case it helps, let me add to the growing list of possible benign explanations for his visits to these sites (it may not be the case that he is cheating on his wife. If that's true, will you still feel that his behavior is affecting the business so seriously as to justify your intervening?):
- he discovered that his wife/son/friend is visiting these sites and is trying to learn more about them
- he read an article that mentioned such sites and wanted to see them for himself
- someone who looks a lot like him has a profile on the sites, he was alerted to this, and wanted to see for himself in case someone was setting him up

etc. Hope I helped; sorry for the length.
posted by prefpara at 4:54 PM on February 11, 2009 [22 favorites]


What you did -- sneaking into his office, snooping in his browser history, and snapping photos of what you found -- is awful. If the same thing happened on my watch, you are the one I would fire, not him. Your behavior suggests you have no sense of proportion, no moral compass with regard to the privacy of a co-worker, and a complete lack of discretion concerning private facts that may accidentally come to your attention. Your attitude about this suggests you are a loose cannon that would exercise no good judgment, tact, or discretion in unusual situations. I need my employees to be discreet and respectful of others, and not consider themselves to be some kind of "moral police" against other employees out of some sort of misguided crusade for the best interests of the company. Your kind of shenanigans, if you did any of the things you are contemplating, could harm the company as well as his life and his family in serious and possibly tragic ways that you don't seem to have contemplated (other than possible repercussions for your own career). I wouldn't take the risk of letting someone like you stay at the company.

I would fire you in a heartbeat. Not him.
posted by jayder at 5:02 PM on February 11, 2009 [31 favorites]


I honestly think the op shouldnt do a thing. She doesnt know why he is on these sites. Also the very act of looking on another persons pc can get you sued or arrested. Do yo ureally want to get sued by him if you mention something to anybody else?
posted by majortom1981 at 5:04 PM on February 11, 2009


I just checked the browser history.

In my workplace, leaving a PC unlocked would be, at most, a warning offence.

Snooping on systems you shouldn't be looking at, regardless of how they're locked down, is a sacking offence. The Notes admins have full access to everyone's email. If they did the equivalent of what you have - printing out email because they are morally outraged by a co-worker's private like - would be escorted from the premises that day.

you are the one I would fire, not him. Your behavior suggests you have no sense of proportion, no moral compass with regard to the privacy of a co-worker, and a complete lack of discretion concerning private facts that may accidentally come to your attention.

Quite. I work in the financial sector. Staff who can't keep their nose the fuck out of co-worker's systems would be considered a risk for digging around the lives of clients. I am not involved in medical research, but I have to say that if I were, I would have no hesitation in sacking a worker who snooped around PCs and ran nasty little crusades against staff based on it, not least because the biggest risk to a medical researcher would be breaches of (in the US) HIPPA and other patient/subject confidentiality.
posted by rodgerd at 5:19 PM on February 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hmm, my post was super long. Let me boil it down.

You clearly feel that your boss is a bad person. This does not necessarily mean that he is a bad employee. And even if he is a bad person, that does not give you any right to snoop on him or interfere in his life.

The solution is not finding a way to punish your boss for doing things that you don't like. The solution is for you to find a way to leave or to accept that he makes choices of which you disapprove. You need to be careful to be honest with yourself about the extent to which your emotions and preferences are leading you to speculate and assume things for which you have no objective basis or real evidence.
posted by prefpara at 5:23 PM on February 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I gotta agree with PatoPata. If you see something again, just lightly say something along the lines of "At work? Really? Tacky."

The only time I've ever said anything beyond that was when I entered my locked office and found evidence that my computer and tissues had been used for someone's personal pleasure after hours. That was icky. A security guard ended up being fired for that incident. At the same place, another security guard was fired for using the corporate board room to surf some serious hardcore porn while projecting it to the big screen. He probably would have gotten away with it except the computer's homepage was reset, a virus installed and one of the sites immediately displayed (via projector) when the computer was booted up the next morning for a board meeting. Yeah... not good, that. My point is that your situation is nothing that deserves the response you're having.
posted by onhazier at 5:24 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


[more comments rmoved - seriously, dial the lulz back or go to metatalk]
posted by jessamyn at 5:40 PM on February 11, 2009


Anonymous, you are telling us that the reason that this situation is your business is because if he is found to be having a gay affair, this will somehow hurt to the point of shutdown the lab you work in, the doctors' practice associated with that lab, and the patients and employees associated with both practices.

This, on its face, is a highly unbelievable statement, and your only support for this statement is asking that we trust vague allusions to ethics being important in your field of business -- evidently other entities in your field are so reactionary as to attribute blame to all people who are professionally associated with someone who does wrong in their personal lives?

In the absence of said support, your premise that this affects your own job prospects is so unsupported as to be nonexistent, which is why people are ignoring it when responding.

If he is going to cheat on his wife, that is a private affair between his wife, the man with whom he cheats, and him. I would agree in finding such an action immoral (not because of homosexuality being involved but solely because of infidelity), but I also don't believe it is your business, as I don't find anything yet in your words that could possibly convince me that discovery of such an affair could in any possible way harm you. In a very minor and irrelevant fashion, his use of a work computer may be your employer's business, but in the absence of a company IT policy and in that he himself is essentially the ad hoc IT guy, and given your own unethical actions in obtaining that "proof", that really is for the most part a dead avenue to you.

I don't believe that discovery of infidelity would have the effect you claim it would, and, unless you can provide to Ask Mefi a extremely convincing set of facts that convinces all that your job really is in danger were his affair1 to be discovered, I would simply advise you to let it be. If you came across differently, I would suggest you approach him and ask him to take care not to expose you to his personal life, but I honestly believe that given the responses you've made thus far, such an encounter couldn't be pulled off in a way that didn't harm either of you. Let it be, use Monster and CareerBuilder to monitor local job openings in your field, and move on when you next can.

1And while it is perhaps most probable that such would be an affair, you have no real proof he is having one. Additionally, he could have an open marriage, or he and his wife may be beards to each other.
posted by WCityMike at 5:51 PM on February 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you like your job you have no choice but to keep your mouth shut.
posted by olddogeyes at 5:55 PM on February 11, 2009


Bean plating: I'm pretty sure it's a typo of the word "actors."
posted by 517 at 6:05 PM on February 11, 2009


What my boss does in his free time is his own business.
What your boss does during work hours is also none of your business.
posted by qvtqht at 6:08 PM on February 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I stumbled across porn (not even just dating sites, like what you're complaining about!) on my boss's computer once, after it was reallocated to me. Big friggin' whoop. I created a directory for old crap of his and moved it there, along with a bunch of his other old files so it wouldn't look like a pointed comment and him feel embarrassed if he was to ever find it there and realise I'd seen it. Frankly I don't want to think about it - I'm not a prude, but there's a million reasons you mightn't want to think about other people's personal lives - so guess what? I don't. He wasn't shoving it down my neck, he wasn't trying to make me uncomfortable -- and nor was your boss, quite clearly; you can't in your heart ever seriously believe that this could be called sexual harrassment, can you? By your own claims, he hid the windows he had open, twice: clearly he was attempting to protect you from the knowledge of what he was doing.

And on that note, nth-ing that you have no idea what he was doing. If he was doing research for any reason, then, holy hell, you should be in awe of having such a mature boss that he discreetly closed those windows rather than being a meat-head moron and trying to draw you into a haw-haw-haw situation when faced with the possibility of you seeing them. If he wasn't doing research, well like others say, it's none of your business. If your goal is to protect your workplace, you're not: there's nothing he's signed saying his personal browsing at work should be limited to any particular sites, or even amounts of time; and there's nothing here to say that he's doing his work any less well for the occasional checking of dating sites whilst at work. Maybe he was calling that time his tea break: I'll often check the web at work and then shave ten minutes off my lunch break. Even if it was work time, so what: we all take microbreaks.

If your goal is to protect his wife: again, you're not. You run the risk of making a big scandal out of nothing - this is a potential mess you could make in terms of your workplace's situation and reputation, too - and doing a lot of harm that's completely avoidable. Even if your boss is checking out dating sites at work, you don't know his situation and you don't know his wife's. Maybe he's pondering his sexuality and just curious in a way that's never going to lead to anything. Maybe he's not. Maybe she knows about this. Maybe she would be embarrassed for others to know. Maybe she doesn't know yet. Maybe she does and supports him. The important thing for you to understand is that his sex and relationship life is his -- it's nothing to do with you. You stand only to wreck people's lives here by trying to make this your business when it isn't.

Agreed with commenters above that your only reasonable and ethical response to catching a glimmer of a dating site before it closes on his screen is to express your discomfort in a "I'm not comfortable with seeing that at work" sort of context. Probably even a wince would be sufficient to let him know you've seen it and don't want to be witness to it. I'll bet he doesn't think you've seen it, but if he does, then he'll either explain that it's for work purposes or whatever, or be a lot more careful in future to make sure you don't encounter such things on his screen.

And there is where it ends for you. Where it becomes no longer relevant to you except for whatever's going on in your head, which is your own responsibility.

And re whatever's going on in your own head: fine, whatever. You sound pretty homophobic to me and I'm gay - so it's a bit difficult for me to be advising you here without treading on my own toes - but: if you feel that quietly letting it go compromises your own morals -- yes, do the only thing you can do that's in accordance with those standards, and leave. You might be throwing away a great job for a fantasy beat up in your head, which would be a bummer - good jobs are hard to find - but that's for you to weigh up and decide. We all need to follow our own paths. Do what's right for you -- so long as, to the best of your ability, it doesn't hurt anybody else.

And trust your boss to do the same.
posted by springbound at 6:14 PM on February 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


Irregardless of the porn/snooping/gayness: If you already knew he took long lunches/coffee breaks and wasn't getting his work done, why didn't you say something THEN? That would have been a completely legitimate complaint all on its own, even if he was just napping in his car or lounging at Starbucks, not blowing some dude.
posted by desjardins at 6:23 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


You stand only to wreck people's lives here by trying to make this your business when it isn't.

This bears repeating.
posted by jayder at 6:26 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know, it occurs to me that you could be being baited here. I mean, maybe you have a rep for failing to MYOFB and for jumping to conclusions, and maybe this isn't the first time you've invited yourself to someone else's computer. Maybe, just maybe, he's waiting for you "OMG BOSS GAYZ SEX OMG" to his superior so they can fire you on the spot for any number of things.

I mean, first off, who cares, second off---none of yours, third off---there are SO MANY possibilities here. Maybe he was pranking a friend. Maybe he was pranking you. Maybe he heard one of his college buddies had a profile and he was looking for it. Maybe he's a closet fetishist with an overbearing bitch of a wife and a few minutes of softcore is the closest the poor man has to a sex life now.

Regardless, you weren't harrassed, you're in the wrong, and you need to get over yourself. This is not your golden ticket.

...and don't tell me you weren't hoping it was...I mean, a picture?
posted by TomMelee at 6:48 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


The only person who's definitely suffering from a lack of ethics is the OP. Let me be the nine millionth person to chime in with "none of your business", "don't make assumptions about the personal lives of others", and "delete the photo."

Man. I would also fire you in a heartbeat.
posted by OolooKitty at 6:49 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


MYOB and take the ethical pole out of your ass. You are making way too much out of this.
posted by luckypozzo at 6:49 PM on February 11, 2009


I don't think it can be said enough: THIS IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!! No matter how you twist it this has nothing to do with you. You are the one lacking in ethics not your boss.

I aspire to be an enlightened pacifist but I am not there yet. With that disclaimer in mind: the one thought I could not shake through this whole thread was "Snitches get stitches." I'll be the first to admit that's a pretty ugly uncharitable thing to say but perhaps it would be constructive to ponder why your question would provoke such a response.
posted by Bango Skank at 6:54 PM on February 11, 2009


When I looked at his history I did not break any locks or hack his computer, I merely walked in and looked at his history

This is not how normal people behave in the workplace.

You should not be peering at people´s computer files or digging through people´s desk drawers, period. Locked or not. This is a cultural norm. You were able to walk up to your boss´s computer and do this because your boss trusted you and didn´t feel the need to put a bunch of locks on things to keep you out of them, but evidently you cannot be trusted. I wouldn´t trust you to watch my purse for me while I was in the bathroom, knowing the sort of person you are.

I suppose I need to point out that the above is an incomplete list of things not to poke at or dig through. Look, just stay out of things that are none of your business and not part of your job in the future and I think life will go much better for you.
posted by yohko at 6:56 PM on February 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


When I looked at his history I did not break any locks or hack his computer, I merely walked in and looked at his history

Yes and if someone leaves their front door open while they are out of the house, it's still stealing if you go in and take their flat screen tv (however it isn't burglary because if the door was open there would be no breaking, irrelevant, but important distinction).

Low tech snooping is still snooping, don't kid yourself.
posted by whoaali at 7:08 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


156 comments and counting, and there is really not a single person here advocating for you... Maybe MeFi is a more laid back place than some, maybe sometimes a bit of a trend gets going depending on the first few comments, but you really must realize that with this many responses, if your behavior were in a grey area, you'd have got some people on your side by now.

It's not beyond understanding that you're bothered by your boss looking at sexually explicit stuff or the idea that he might be cheating on his wife, but a) that is his private life and b) what you did to find out more is completely unacceptable. The most you could have done was to immediately confront him when you accidentally saw what was on the screen - even that would be unnecessary office-snoopiness IMO, but probably at that level you would at least get some back and forth about it from AskMe.
posted by mdn at 7:12 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


You are being completely ridiculous and completely irrational, you have no proof for your accusations, and it is none of your business what your boss does, at all, full stop.

Yes, you DID break a lock when you looked at his history. You broke the lock of trust he had that you wouldn't do something ridiculous and beyond your station such as looking at his browsing history. I'll repeat this once more to make it clear: you were WRONG to look at his browsing history, it was completely inappropriate, completely unprofessional, and should get you fired.

You're 25. You have a lot to learn. Take this as being the strongest lesson so far of the wise principle Mind Your Own Business.

You are wrong. You are wrong. How many times do we need to repeat it for it to get through your skull! YOU ARE WRONG! Your actions were unwarranted and further actions are even more unwarranted. The best thing you can do now is delete that damn photo you so willingly took, find another job, and resign without saying one word about this.
posted by Meagan at 7:14 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


You might want to go through Ask.Me history and look for relationshipfilter questions where a person mentions looking through their partner's e-mail. What you will see is that, even though people in romantic relationships have much more reason to snoop on their partner's internet activities than an employee ever has to snoop on her boss, and even though it is even easier for a person to get to their partner's computer than it was for you to get to your boss's, and even if the person's snooping isn't central to the question being asked, people still reprimand the person for snooping.

So, if it's wrong to snoop even on one's romantic partner, in the comforts of one's own home, and even on one's own computer, then it most certainly wrong for an employee to snoop on her boss by accessing his computer without his permission.

We're all asking you to re-evaluate your actions. We're all asking you to forget what you learned. If for no other reason than because you behaved inappropriately.
posted by Ms. Saint at 7:28 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was going to say something very similar to WCityMike. I have worked in research labs and medical clinics, and you will shocked to learn that the gays have infiltrated them at all levels. Very fine physicians, administrators, technicians, attorneys, clerks, the whole deal. I've never lived on the coast; these men were in the south and midwest. Many of these gays engage in dating. I would presume that some may have looked at gay dating sites. I've also seen a number of divorced men and women, as well as numerous broken relationships. I presume some to involve infidelity.

Patients do not, on the whole, care. Those who do find other doctors; it's not as if there is a shortage of patients in most fields. This is reasonable behavior. If I told you that someone was an excellent and well regarded gyn-oncologist and as gay as they come, would you let his homosexuality really factor into your decision on who removed your ovarian tumor? That calculation would run 1/1000000 personal taste on their sex life + 999999/1000000 being the best available at curing my cancer.

You are rationalizing. People can rationalize anything; it's how we make our worst decisions.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:45 PM on February 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Let me understand this since I am way late to this party. You find out your boss surfed gay hook-up sites and he is married with kids. There is nothing in your little company's policy against this. You took picture to prove he is surfing gay hook-up sites.

You are a blackmailer if you decide to do anything other than leave silently as soon as you can without revealing something you have no business knowing and which you have no idea what the full truthful explanation for this is.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:54 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


In all seriousness: I sincerely think you are in need of a mental health evaluation. Beyond snooping and plans for blackmail (for which you could be justifiably fired), there are elements to your narrative that -- to my admittedly layman's perspective -- seem to verge on delusion and paranoia far beyond the what is reasonable based on the facts as you have presented them. There's something else going on here, and it's got nothing to do with your boss, your boss's computer, your boss's sexual orientation, or your boss's personal life.
posted by scody at 8:22 PM on February 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


I've been involved with a number of employer/employee disputes involving HR, police, federal investigators and international government agencies. The results of some of these actions have resulted in reprimands, firings, imprisonment and extradition.

I've provided evidence, testified, and been involved in extended investigations with cases involving harassment, assault (physical and sexual), theft and suspected terrorist activity.

In a lot of these cases, browsing history and general computer use has been either cause for action or key evidence depending on the parties involved or the severity of the crimes/accusations.

In all that time and all the situations I've been involved with, not one was as spurious or based on such questionable judgment as the one you've described. In absence of an Acceptable Use Policy, self-policing or vigilante action calls more attention to the individual "out for justice" then it does to the defamed party. I'm not trying to justify your bosses action(s) as I personally believe that they are not acceptable in a work environment (based solely on your description) but your actions are far less acceptable (a witch-hunt if you will) and will most likely hurt you more than your superior.

Let it go. It's not as important as you've made it out to be. That's not justification for the action (as I believe it is inappropriate as well) but everyone wins when simple common sense is followed.
posted by purephase at 9:09 PM on February 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


If this information got to the public, it could devastate this company and the doctors who own it.

If an employee looking at dating sites will ruin the business and its investors, the company is damaged beyond repair. Get out now.

...or you might want to stop exaggerating and imagining that you are more important than you are.

Some guy looked at personal websites on company time, just like you do with Metafilter. I would not worry about it. (In other news, humans like sex. Shocking!)
posted by jrockway at 9:43 PM on February 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wow... lots of strong opinions. I think you may have muddied the waters somewhat with the references to sexual issues, but here's my take on your situation:

While working for two business partners in a very small firm years ago, I began to suspect that one partner was embezzeling from the other. It threw me for a loop, as I was a single mother at the time and desperately needed to keep my job. Ultimately, I decided that wasn't a sufficient reason to ignore the facts.

I spent the next few weeks quietly looking back through the books in my off time (the finances were part of my job responsibilities), documenting what I had feared and soon learned without a doubt was true. All the while, I was mentally and emotionally preparing myself to lose my job when I came forward with the news, as I was only the Lowly Office worker and The Embezzeler was, after all, a Partner. During this time, The Embezzeler had suspected something was up and had made several unsuccessful attempts to convince the other partner they should fire me.

Once I had my documentation in place, I requested privately that the Other Partner meet with me over the weekend. I knew there was an excellent chance I would end up without a job as a result (baby and the bath water and all that). While I didn't look forward to it, I'd finally accepted that it would be preferable to knowing what I knew, not saying anything, and staying there.

Long story short -- The Other Partner was shocked but promised me he would deal with it. When I came to work on Monday, the Other Partner had already initiated a legal dissolution of the partnership. I kept my job.

The important thing here is that there are some critical differences from your situation:

1. Embezzelment by one partner was clearly illegal and harmful to the business. Your firm has no Internet policies prohibiting personal browsing during work hours or even accessing porn sites. If the sites visited were illegal pornography, it would be different because accessing illegal material on a work computer would put the company at risk legally (I think -- correct me, attorneys!). It doesn't sound like that was the case here.

2. I did what I could to document the evidence -- but only within my job responsibilities and ethical limits. (As it turned out, there was 'way more evidence The Other Partner had access to that I hadn't known.) Unless your job responsibilities clearly gave you responsibility to enforce the (unexisting) company policies on company computers, you were in the wrong to be in his Internet files.

I agree with those who've pointed out that -- lacking any company Internet policies -- you don't have a legitimate gripe. Your best bet is to continue looking for another job and get out of there as soon as possible.
posted by northernlightgardener at 10:23 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm a 25 year-old female who has been working at my company for 7 months.

* * *

My problem with discovering it has made me question his ability to make an ethical decision when it comes to the work we do on a daily basis. I believe in my heart that this will harm our company at some point.


I initially missed the part where you said you had only been there seven months. And you're already finding fault with your boss, snooping in his computer, plotting to have him fired, congratulating yourself in advance for saving your firm from the menace your boss presents, contemplating hiring a lawyer, and wondering whether your life may be in danger. After seven months on the job.

I really think Scody is right. You need a psychiatric evaluation.
posted by jayder at 10:30 PM on February 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm trying to imagine the scene where you go to your boss' boss, say "I think my boss is cheating on his wife", and pull out a photo of his browser history. And at this point your boss' boss is supposed to say: "My God! If word of this gets out, it'll ruin the company!"

If it bothers you so much that he accidentally exposed you to a glimpse of a gay dating site, ask him to please close personal sites when you're in his office. But of course it's hard for you to ask him to keep his own business private when you're actively invading his privacy.

As for his use of company "resources" -- you've only been there for 7 months. If your boss is making inefficient use of resources, it is not your concern.
posted by creasy boy at 1:40 AM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


My initial comment (about 7 above) that you appear to be a blackmailer was based on the information you provided assuming you provided in accurately. Now, thinking even more about it, if I were your bosses lawyer, I would claim this is a frameup by you. YOU have access to the bosses computer by your own admission. YOU could have used his computer to access the sites so that you could black mail him.

I highly recommend you do not go to your bosses partners for your own sake. It is much harder to get the help you need while facing prison time for blackmail than it would be to get the help on your own.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 3:56 AM on February 12, 2009


MetaTalk thread on the term "taters." Original Poster, please clarify!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:35 AM on February 12, 2009


I still don't know how you were going to bring this up to your boss's boss. "Sir... there's something you should know. Maybe you should sit down. This is something that could break this company apart. My boss... may want to date men." That's when you swoon and your boss's boss says, "Good heavens! If word were to get out, we'd be ruined!"

In actuality, the Big Boss will think that you are constructing a mountain out of a molehill, seriously question your judgment, and reevaluate your place at the company. And that's even before you whip out the screenshot.

You need to think about this. And if that still leads you to the same conclusion, you need to read this thread again until you understand: this is not a big deal. There is not a huge ethical dilemma here. This should not be tearing you up inside. For some reason, whether it's the gay aspect, the cheating aspect, or the non-work aspect, this has profoundly impacted you.

I will add that if you had seen a coworker browsing one of match.com's sexier brethren, it probably wouldn't have been as big a deal to you. I can think of many less professional things to do at work than check out a gay dating site. Please reread the other possibilities listed upthread (research, curiosity, friend on the site) for why he could have been looking at it.
posted by amicamentis at 9:26 AM on February 12, 2009


What would you do in this situation? Have any of you had to deal with this before? Or similar sexual harassment?

If you think this is sexual harassment, I would recommend you get psychiatric help, or volunteer for a women's shelter. Helping out rape and domestic abuse victims might help you learn what sexual abuse is.

As to you figuring out how to manage your homophobia, I would recommend that you volunteer to work in a shelter for gay and lesbian youths.

In addition to distracting you from destroying other people's lives for no reason, working with children who have been made homeless for their "lifestyle" might teach you some empathy for other human beings.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:46 AM on February 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


I won't pile on to the above-posts (which I happen to agree with) but I want to plead with you not do anything with this information and the picture you took. It would be immoral, cruel and unconscionable to potentially bring harm to this man (and hurt his family in the process) based upon your ASSUMPTIONS. You do not know if he is gay, being unfaithful to his wife, or anything else you mentioned. ALL you know is that he has visited the websites you saw when you went looking for them--not when he showed them to you. At worst, he is guilty of being to slow to minimize his screen in an effort to PROTECT you.

If is is upsetting to you, it is. You're entitled to your feelings and opinions. If you simply can't let it go, then you can't. But you have no right to potentially bring harm to him based on your conjecture and speculation. Your only (decent-human-being) option if you can't get over it is to find a new job, because this man did nothing to harm you. Please afford him the same courtesy.
posted by murrey at 10:16 AM on February 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


Let him be responsible for his own actions. If inappropriate computer use comes back to bite him, he'll have to deal with it in his professional and personal life, and that'll be tragic for him. You don't need to be involved, regardless of how your opinion of him has changed.

You say you have no problem with the lifestyle you suspect he has, but you do. You don't respect him now that you know about it and the choices he has apparently made and you say you can't work for him because of it. Own that.

I suspect that your shock over what you see as his personal failings is causing you to overestimate the degree to which this will affect the company, assuming anything ever happens. If he is not the owner of the company, and gets canned, he'll be replaced. If they can't afford to can him, they won't. If you're worried that him getting canned will lose you your job, then don't help it happen.

Here is where I resist passing judgment on your snooping.
posted by Askr at 10:35 AM on February 12, 2009


Just for a little perspective, I'd *much* rather work for a possible adulterer than a known snooper.

For the love of pete, leave the guy alone.
posted by Space Kitty at 12:42 PM on February 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wasn't there an episode of Mad Men where one of the guys finds out that Don Draper wasn't actually who he said he was? And when he tells the head boss the boss says "who cares?" and then offers to fire him for Don?

Seems pretty similar to your situation.
posted by Green With You at 1:30 PM on February 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


There are two separate issues here that you are dealing with: Are your boss's actions going to ruin your practice/company? and Are you sexually harassed?

For the first, I would say that what he's currently doing at work is unlikely to damage the company without additional actions that you haven't detailed. Because there's no IT use guidelines and he is in charge of your little group, there's no way to ding him on not following the office rules. Since he's the boss, he essentially gets to say what is right and wrong for your little group where it is not specified by the corporate rules. You have a weak case that he's damaging the company, although it could pan out for you if you choose to report him for using the computer for personal matters. The content of what he's looking at might get him fired if your partners are very conservative, but it might get them sued for discriminatory firing, too.

Since I hate it when claims of sexual harassment are immediately pooh-poohed, I've been thinking about your situation for a while now. Looking at intent, the sequence of events, what you saw, and how you got subsequent information ... I do not believe this is sexual harassment in the traditional, accepted sense of the phrase. The sexual connotations of the incident complicate the situation (both for and against). Even the common passive examples of sexual harassment include images and graffiti posted publicly and semi-permanently in the office. This was fleeting and accidental, and was not intended for your view, just as if you had accidentally walked in on him changing his clothes. What he did was discomforting, however, awkward, and not preferred office behavior. It was intended private behavior. The fact that he's bi/gay/curious/investigating/accidentally clicked on the wrong place on a web page and launched dozens of porny windows without intending to adds layers of complexity to the problem. I would let it go, personally, and not focus on my new found info. When he goes out for his long time away from the office, I'd try an assume he's on a job interview, has a series of moles he's having looked at, or is meeting friends for lunch or coffee and networking. I would focus entirely on the work if possible while looking for a new job.

However, I am not you. You clearly feel like you have been placed in a situation where you are no longer comfortable at work and unable to work effectively with you boss and your new knowledge. (Your own investigative work has deepened this feeling, even as it has exposed you to potential damage both interpersonally and professionally. You need to be aware that if you pursue the issue with you boss' bosses, you will be in danger of losing your job because of these efforts.) As an adult, it behooves you to handle this situation as maturely as possible. Any action you take now will make things harder and more difficult in the short term for you (possibly including your job search), with possible long-term negative (professional and legal) side effects.

If you must act, your first step should be talk to your boss. This will not be fun. Do not tell him you looked at his history much less have taken a photograph of his screen. (This could get you fired or reprimanded, and will set you up at opposite ends and reduce the chances of you getting this resolved relatively nicely.) Do not bring up homosexuality or his marriage. (Those are not core to your objection and will turn this difficult conversation into one that is even worse - and will weaken your righteous stand. His marriage and sexuality are none of your business even though you were accidentally exposed to more information about them than you wanted.)

Instead, you should say to him, "Boss, when I came in here the other day, I caught sight of something on you screen that I wish I hadn't. It made me (a little) uncomfortable. I appreciate that you had the courtesy and concern for me to try and shield me from seeing it, but I'd like to avoid this situation going forward."

This lets him know you know. It does not set you up as an adversary (like going over his head would). It explains any signs he is seeing of you discomfort around him. You will probably get an apology and he will take steps so you don't see anything again accidentally. He does not owe you an explanation of his behavior, although he may give you one. Take it at face value. Chances are so unbelievably small that he'll follow you home and hurt you that it is a risk worth taking IF you have to do something. You have a better chance of him treating you as a confidante and telling you more information you don't want to know. Talking to him instead of his bosses will make it easier for you to leave the company without him sabotaging you and your reputation. If he reacts poorly (threats, showing you gay porn, not hiding it from you when you come in the room), then you go to his bosses (tell 'em what you saw, how you handled it, and how he reacted. Leave out the snooping if at all possible. It makes you look bad.)

I am sorry this is so long, but if you feel really strongly that this is sexual harassment, it is going to be tough on you, your boss, and the company when you take it to his bosses, and you need to know what you will be getting into. This will be very much of a he said/she said/is this sexual harassment or just inappropriate work behavior debate type of situation with a wide variety of permutations. It, too, is a weak case. There is no easy path to the right solution for you here. Your actions could "devastate the company and the doctors who own it" just as much as his -- particularly if it gets into a courtroom (if your boss contests being fired, for example). The debate around whether it constitutes sexual harassment could be very appealing to a 24 hour media that needs to fill airtime. Heck, even if it hits the gossip loops in your industry, it could have the same effect. Because it's such a small office and a smallish industry you are likely to have no anonymity.

By the way: You can get over not respecting your boss. Most of us have had bosses we didn't respect at one time or another. We did our jobs, kept our opinions to ourselves, and dealt with it as professionals. As for the Ethical decisions he makes at work ... take an hour and think about the decisions he's made recently. Do you question any of those? Do you see signs he's cheating in terms of how he does his job (skipping protocols, inflating numbers, misreporting research?). A cheater in private life isn't necessarily a cheater in a professional life. Keep an eye on those decisions/choices he makes going forward and speak up when you see something that troubles you. This new information has rocked your world, but your boss is still the same kind of worker, and he's the same kind of researcher (or whatever you do) as he was last week.
posted by julen at 2:24 PM on February 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Your follow-up just makes you sound even more self-righteous and crazy. Again, I'm not saying that to be mean, but I would expect a completely different follow-up from a mature person. You come across as self-righteous and immature. If you can't understand why just yet, surely you have the good sense to know you don't want to come across that way. Let this go.
posted by Nattie at 3:27 PM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just out of curiosity, I ran this scenario past a good friend who is a manager of human resources at a large law firm. She felt that, at her firm, the boss would probably get a warning and possibly have his internet use randomly looked at for a while. The OP would likely be fired for gross privacy violations.

For what it's worth.
posted by OolooKitty at 6:51 PM on February 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


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