Q: I have a suspicion that a colleague is logging on to my computer and looking at my confidential correspondence with clients.
There have been a number of incidents in the past couple of weeks where it's obvious that he can only have known about certain developments if he'd read about them. Either that or he's a mind-reader. We work in a very competitive team and I just don't trust him. Should I confront him about it, or go to my manager?
A: Are you one of those people who writes their password on a Post-It note and sticks it on their computer? If not, it seems a bit odd that this colleague of yours finds it so easy to gain access to your files.
But all this remains just suspicion, and unsubstantiated suspicions are toxic creatures. They burn away inside you, never validated, yet never disproved - feeding the imagination with ever wilder speculations and colouring your judgment of just about everything.
For me, this rules out both your options. You confront the suspect and he denies everything. With no hard evidence, what do you do next? You've spent your shot, deeply offended a possibly innocent colleague - and been left, I fear, looking more than a little foolish. Equally, you go to your manager; and he or she, reasonably, says: 'And so what do you want me to do about it?' You'll have no practical answer.
Instead, go to your IT people. Say that you have a particularly sensitive client at the moment who's insisting on maximum security measures being applied to every bit of data that relates to his business. Get them to apply Fort Knox measures to your desktop. If, suddenly, your colleague no longer shows uncanny insights into your affairs, your suspicions may be hardened. If not, then he probably is a mind-reader.