I got a job working at an IBM lab. Many security procedures I do not see the point of and sometimes find so annoying makes me want to disregard the rules all together. The clean desk policy is in effect. Every person I ask gives me a different variation of the policy but basically it prohibits people from leaving notes on their desk overnight. I am told that people come in at night to check to see if anything written is left out and if there is the person whose desk it is found at is penalized. The problem is the people doing the checking assume anything left out is confidential because how else would they know where to draw the line. This really becomes annoying because I wrote the names of a couple characters on a white board and was told to erase it. Why would this not be allowed? I asked some people and they said it could leak information one bit a day (not sure if they were joking). There are defiantly books and calendars around so I don't see what's stopping someone from writing confidential information on the pages of one of them. Is it likely people go through the normal garbages and recycling to see if confidential information has been put into them without being destroyed? Some people have told me as long as you write "non confidential" at the top of a document you can leave it out overnight. Does this completely circumvent anything from getting a person in trouble?

Also we keep the curtains closed at night, is that just so people don't see there's computers and want to break in?

The company used to be a software firm but was bought out by IBM a few years ago. Is it possible some employees resent being bought out or is this common?

When I ask my manager and colleagues about these issues they tend to make jokes or give personal opinions. I'm thinking of contacting someone outside of the building, would this be a question for HR, or what title of person should I try to get a hold of that would be able to answer such questions definitively?

My point about the clean desk policy is that it is a waste of time. Someone could write “non-confidential” and be exempt from it. Also it antagonizes the employees. What does this practice protect? I seriously doubt someone’s going to break into the lab and randomly go through notes.

  • When in Rome, do like Romans (the Big Blue ones) do. Besides, having clean desk builds character... Not sure if your question is a better fit here or at Workplace SE Feb 24, 2013 at 12:37

1 Answer 1


The problem is that people who leave notes on their desk might not be as security minded as you. With the policy in place, your company is sure that there is less chance of information leakage. This may frustrate you, but I believe that this is actually not a bad thing. Corporate espionage is happening more and more, so companies try to do whatever they can to cover this.

Personal notes:

I personally don't really see your problem, the policy is there to protect the investments of your company and I don't think it's hard to lock your notes away. If I put something on a whiteboard, I always make a copy of the board.

On your other questions about who to call and what the issue might be, this is a site for practical answerable questions, so the internal politics, who to call and how your managers react to your question isn't really in scope here. If you don't like the policy and it really frustrates you, I would get a new job.

  • Your right about leaving the job, I've got a contract so I'm stuck for a while =)
    – Zulu0
    Feb 24, 2013 at 10:58

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