Have you ever found something confidential left in a copy machine or printer tray?

Early in my career I worked in marketing for a tech company. My boss, the marketing VP, had been asked to leave and everyone was wondering what would happen next. Would she be replaced? Would one of us be promoted?

Late one afternoon I found a printout of a long email on the printer. It was from the sales development guy to his boss, one of the senior VPs, explaining why he should be put in charge of marketing and all of my team fired because we were all incompetent. It included a detailed plan for how to make this transition.

The author of the email (let’s call him Greg) was a piece of work. He would come in my office almost daily and quiz me about marketing programs, throw around marketing buzzwords he had learned in business school, and explain how we should do everything differently because we were making his job difficult. He had no allies at the company and (as far as I could tell) no one liked him, including his boss. Still, despite the fact he wasn’t succeeding at his own job, he was convinced he could do everyone else’s job better.

So why would Greg have printed out an email he had already sent? I was pretty sure he left it on the printer intentionally for someone in my group to find so we’d know he had declared war on us. That’s just the kind of guy he was.

At this point, I think I was the only person who knew how sleezy this guy was, so I quietly showed Greg’s email to my team as well as a senior staff member and a friend in HR. Everyone was now on alert for whatever he would try next. I left that job a few months later for a number of reasons, but Greg was definitely one of them.

Six months later I heard from friends at the company that (thanks to all the eyes on him) Greg had been caught in a kickback scheme, having the company pay one of his friends thousands of dollars for “consulting work” and the two of them splitting the cash. Said cash was being used to fund Greg’s long-time cocaine addiction, which he had been indulging during work hours.

Of course he was fired. I wonder what would have happened if he hadn’t left that email on the printer that afternoon.

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