Coworkers looking at my computer screen
September 26, 2018 11:40 AM   Subscribe

I sit in between two coworkers at a long desk (no separation), both higher-up in position than me. One of my coworkers I find looking at my screen multiple times a day while I'm working, and both feel free to comment on what I'm working on at any point in the process, not at agreed-upon times.

The consequence is that I always feel like I'm being watched, and feel self-conscious about the work that I'm doing because it's open for critique at any point in time. Frustrating.

What are some ways that I discourage this behavior? Thanks.
posted by Sreiny to Human Relations (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Are you open to technical solutions like a privacy overlay, or are you committed to solving this interpersonally (or both)?
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 11:51 AM on September 26, 2018 [3 favorites]


Get a 3M Privacy Filter for your monitor. This will narrow the angle at which people can view your screen.

Also, you should be discussing this with your actual supervisor and coming up with an action plan to clarify who should be overseeing your work, and the circumstances in which that oversight occurs.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 11:51 AM on September 26, 2018 [14 favorites]


"Thanks, but this is still a work in progress; it's not ready to be reviewed by anyone else until I submit it." Repeat, repeat, repeat.
posted by metasarah at 12:12 PM on September 26, 2018 [12 favorites]


let me handle this

YO, SREINY'S COWORKERS! STOP LOOKING AT HIS SCREEN, JEEZ! OKAY BYE!

on the off chance that I didn't just save the day there, you could probably just say something like "hey, I just wanted to let you know that I feel kind of self-conscious about my process when you comment on stuff I'm working on before it's ready for review. I know we're all stuck at one big desk together, but if you could pretend like you can't see my screen you'd be doing me a huge solid."

if they persist after this, they're being jerks and you can kick it up the chain of command.
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:37 PM on September 26, 2018 [13 favorites]


Are they in any way responsible for the final product? If so, it may be anxiety that's motivating them, in which case I'd be tempted to deflect while appealing to their expertise.

"This is under-baked at the moment... let's find a time next Tuesday to review it, once it's in better shape."

"I'm still organizing my thoughts but can I come to you if I have questions?"
posted by cranberrymonger at 12:41 PM on September 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


"Due respect, Bob, but could you take a couple steps back please?"

"Bob, would you mind not hovering? I'm feeling really self-conscious, and it's hard to work that way."

"Bob, due respect, I'd rather not hear your opinions while I'm still working on this."

"Bob, due respect, back off."

"Bob, back off."

"Bob, butt out."

"Bob, what even the fuck. Back. Off."

(Me, I start towards the lower middle of the list, but ymmv.)
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 1:20 PM on September 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


Ugh, that’s awful! I agree with talking to your supervisor. In the meantime, I’d repeat this as often as necessary: “yep, that’s why it’s not ready for review yet!” Or whatever similar phrase is appropriate. My sympathies!
posted by JenMarie at 1:32 PM on September 26, 2018


So if you are between them (they are on left/right?) then maybe some desk decor is your answer. A plant? Or yes, those privacy overlays where you have to be at the right angle to see text. Not great for graphic design but for just text they work pretty well.
posted by emjaybee at 1:49 PM on September 26, 2018


I’d recommend talking to your supervisor, and explaining that this is affecting your work. In your shoes, I’d say something like “hey, I feel like I’m being watched all the time, and don’t have the space to think and work through things that I need to produce a good product. Is there any way we could fix this?” Keep the discussion focused on how this is affecting your output, ie. your boss’s results, rather than on the fact that your co-workers are insensitive idiots.

And yeah, also look into practical measures like a privacy screen, putting up some barriers between you, or moving to the other side of the desk so that they are not able to glance sideways at your screen.

I hope this works out. This kind of work environment would drive me nuts.
posted by rpfields at 1:54 PM on September 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


I work in a row of three desks and only the person in the back by the window has semblance of monitor privacy. I don't think asking to not be seen is really tenable, I often see the person in front of me's screen just as a consequence of having vision. It's also work so expectations of privacy are lower than usual (not that anything you do even on your home computer can ever possibly truly be private ever again after the last decade). Seems the real problem is the unwelcome feedback on your works in progress. That can absolutely be maddening and seems like communicating with the would-be commenters that it is unwelcome and stressful and please would you withhold commentary until I have asked for it.
posted by GoblinHoney at 3:08 PM on September 26, 2018


What The Almighty Mommy Goddess said.

You should not have to put up with that kind of crap! Tell them to
Stop looking over my shoulder!

No one, not your boss, not the company's CEO should invade your space like that. It's not only rude, but it's creepy.
posted by james33 at 6:08 AM on September 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


I've had a similar situation and it's so frustrating! The scripts above are great and should work unless you work for/with toxic children, which unfortunately I did so I ended up making up a reason for my computer the face the other way ("the sun glares on the monitor") and eventually moved desks to a location with fewer people. But really the answer in my case should have been to "find another job" when a reasonable boundary was trampled on because it was just a symptom of a larger disease. There's no way of knowing if that's the case for you until you set the boundary — I hope it's not!

If you do go the 3M privacy screen route, I can confirm that they work great and I have no trouble doing detailed graphic design work while using them. They just barely affect the screen when looking straight on but not enough to effect your sense of color or ability to see detailed work. I wouldn't try it without talking to the screen-peeper first, though, as the application of a privacy screen when they feel they have a right to check your work in progress at all times will cause conflict.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 8:37 AM on September 27, 2018


Sometimes when I'm on mass transit I will look at the screen of someone next to me who is doing something on their phone- and I have to use quite a bit of willpower to peel my eyes off their screen.

I can't even say it's because I really want to see what they're seeing because I don't really feel I'm that interested. Rather it's more like, well their screen is there and I can look at the boring work papers I'm reading OR stare blankly at a screen that I have little to no interest in, but at least allows me to avoid the thing I don't want to do for now.

Maybe they're not even that interested, but for whatever reason are compelled to look in that direction. Just bring it up and say it makes you feel uncomfortable. But I would buy the privacy screen anyway, because if they are anything like me even if they don't mean to look- They're probably going to find their eyes compulsively creeping over there from time to time. The way I see it, whether they are purposefully being rude or not- you need a privacy screen.
posted by fantasticness at 11:13 AM on September 27, 2018


Use the 3M privacy filter and if someone peeks over at your computer screen, open a browser with a black background. I created a homepage of personal links with a black background just for this purpose. When they look over at your screen, you can open the black background and meet their gaze in the faint reflection. When people ask me about it, I say it helps with eyestrain. If you are faced backwards, having a mirror also helps. I sometimes adjust a mirror to talk to people who are (rudely) hovering behind me. It is a subtle rebuke for their discourtesy and discourages further bad behavior. A standing desk is also helpful. People can't just invade your privacy as easily.
posted by metasunday at 8:13 AM on September 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


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