Former CEO Read My "Journal" Online

Updated on July 31, 2012
H.M. asks from Boulder, CO
23 answers

So - I have two blogs - one that is public - another that is private. The private one I set up as private and used it as a "affirmation" tool and place to write about the issues I was having at my last job. I never once had any intention of it ever being read by another.

It is on along with my public blog (which anyone can read) but I made the settings "private, not searchable, will not show up in search engines" and thought that was enough.

I recently got an email from my old CEO (small company and we had a fairly personal relationship) wishing me a happy birthday - this was on a Saturday. I have a link to my public blog on my personal email (which I was told on Friday did not work so I fixed it that afternoon) and I responded to her email with a pretty generic "thank you" type of note and thought nothing of it after that.

The next day I get a response from her that says "I really enjoyed reading your blogs (red flag one) you have a great talent as a writer" and then she started talking about all this personal stuff and finally ended the email with "and for the record - you weren't "pushed out" of my company - we don't operate that way and I would never have let that happen to anyone, especially you."

By this point I feel ill. I realize that she must have someone gotten into my private journal - and I went through several different clicks/steps until I ended up on a page that showed this journal. Apparently I had missed a privacy setting when I was putting it together and she was able to read all the entries into my journal.

I was mortified. First - because the journal was set up specifically for me to talk and work through my experience at her company over the past 6 months. Aside from that - I also wrote about struggles I was having parenting my 4 year old and my firing from the job I left her company to pursue.

Yes - I know I shouldn't have put my journal online - so let's not berate that issue. I have since deleted it completed and moved back to the old fashion type of journaling - in a note book.

My question is - how would you feel? I wrote her back and explained that she stumbled upon my personal journal - I was embarrased - etc - and she seems fine with that. She said she journals herself and understand the concept of the "unsent letter" and ended her email with all sorts of positive words like "hang in there" and "I know this is leading you to the perfect place in your life" - blah blah blah.

She keeps writing me and even called the other night to "talk" - though I would not answer the phone. She is now sending me suggestions on books to help me "move forward" and through this "difficult time" and sharing all sorts of personal information with me (her divorce, how she hit her kids once and "felt sick" about it) but I just want the whole thing to go away.

I alternate between thinking she is trying to be kind to thinking she is just niggling me when I am down. For the record - I don't really recall anything HORRIBLE being written about her in particular - it was really more of a place where I wrote positive affirmations for myself and tried to seek answers/directions - but I'm still sure there were some unsavory things written about her company as a whole. In addition, I think she should have apologized to me - especially once I confirmed that it was my journal (which she responded in the email saying "I thought i was your journal") - for reading it. I saw she read 16 entires - which I think is more than enough to realize it was full of private information. Kinda like when you stumble upon a person's diary - you may read the first page or so but should quickly close and move on once you realize it wasn't for your eyes.

So - what do you think?

Am I over reacting? I feel totally violated, embarrassed and quite stupid for having missed the last privacy setting - but also think that she shouldn't be sending me emails discounting my experience as I wrote in my own journal! Who is she to say I wasn't "pushed out of her company?" Many of you followed that saga and based on what happened I think there is no other way to look at what happened while I was there.

I'd like to say something to her but not sure if it would be burning a bridge? She is the CEO of a company and very well connected - she offered to be a reference for me while all of this was going down - but I can't get past my gut feeling that it's all kinda icky.


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So What Happened?

I just re-read the entire "journal' from top to bottom. I was so terrified to do so because I couldn't remember what I'd written - what it said - and was afraid I'd be completely mortified. Guess what? I didn't really say anything! WOO HOO. I talked about being frustrated at that job - losing my existing job (where I referenced being pushed out) but overall - it didn't say anything bad at all. It was mostly me sending positive affirmations to myself about getting past my stress, taking things as they come, etc. I wished I read it sooner but I was scared - now I know I shouldn't have been so afraid of my own words. Thanks again ladies...

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answers from Boca Raton on

If I were the CEO, and I read something online that was not factual (in my opinion) I would want to set the record straight too, at least in my own mind. As for the rest of it, maybe she's trying to make you feel better.

IMHO it's one of those things that is best dropped, especially since there is nothing more you can do about it. What is to be gained by saying something?

This is just my lay opinion . . . you know the situation better. But I would be careful with the legalities and the professional implications of such matters.

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answers from Chicago on

She absolutely does NOT owe you an apology. In fact maybe you should thank her for letting you know that your private blog was exposed. It sounds like she sincerely likes you. She is putting herself out there to you because she feels a connection. Maybe you were able to help her heal in some of her undesirable moments. You probably feel icky because of what YOU did on pure accident, and I don't blame you, it is a terrible feeling.

I also want to thank you for posting this. I always remind my 22 yr old daughter about how the internet is not private & to be very careful about what she puts on their. I will be sure to have her read this post.

Best wishes, I hope she was the only one that read your private blog and informed you in time so no one else did.

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answers from Columbia on

She's trying to be your friend and tell you something personal back.

Like when a friend says - you're my friend, and that person doesn't respond?

Or you tell someone they love you the first time, and they don't respond?

She's making sure that she IS responding. She wants to be a close friend. Up to you if you let her in or not. :)

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answers from Sarasota on

This is only my opinion and I don't know your whole situation...

I don't think she owes you any sort of apology. You put a personal journal on an online blog site. She didn't hack your computer and read a word document or something. She stumbled upon information you unknowingly gave her access to.

I would not say anything to her beyond maybe "thank you for your concern, I really want to put this all behind me now. Take care". Otherwise you risk further tarnishing your reputation and I'm guessing you will still need her or someone within the company as a reference.

Take this as a big old life lesson. Never put anything private online, no matter how safe it seems.

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answers from Washington DC on

No, do not burn the bridge with her if you want to work in that field ever again.

She will eventually cool off on the e-mails and advice once she gets it all out. You will only fuel her fire for advising you if you slam the door on her hard -- she will see you as a challenge, or as a poor soul who truly needs her and doesn't see it. It sounds like she has had issues in her own life and she may feel that what she read from you made an instant connection and she can help you and is eager to do so. Just say the equivalent of "Thanks, I'll take that on board" or "I get what you mean" and nothing else. That does not commit you to reading the books or heeding the advice.

I would assume the best of her, not the worst. Figure that she is sincere. Why would she bother to niggle you about the past -- especially if she were helpful to you (offering to be a reference) back while all this was happening at your job? I think your own embarrassment is coloring your perspective here and making you assume she's got negative motives when there may be only good ones. Annoying to you, but still good motives.

You say that "there is no other way to look at what happened while I was there" in your old company but there is always another way-- right or wrong, you cannot change HER perspective on what happened. You are gone. This job is gone. Do not try to hash your perspective out with her or say she's not seeing it right. There would be zero point and you would lose a potential reference for the future. Hard to swallow? Painful? Yes, but if you want to work again and might need the reference -- swallow it.

She does not owe you an apology. You know the mistake you made and have corrected it. Why shouldn't anyone assume that something that was put online (as opposed to kept in the writer's own computer, or a notebook) is put there for others to read? People post intensely personal things online all the time wanting and expecting others to read it. Unless you headed every blog entry with "please do not read this," its very presence online made it fair game to read if it could be found in any way. That's why no one can ever trust so-called privacy settings. But that's done now too. You cannot erase what she knows, so just respond cordially but non-committally and don't cut her off cold unless this is all so painful that you just don't care if she's a reference later.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

The internet is forever.
You've learned your lesson.
When we know better we do better (learned that phrase here!).

Perhaps she just actually has a heart and feels badly that you have the memory of events with regard to leaving the company the way that you do...

Keep the relationship as a business/reference/networking contact.
And forget it.

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answers from Seattle on

Personally, I think she likes what you wrote.

Whatever you wrote resonates with her and she is reaching out to try and build something with you, as a friend, as a writer, as a mother....etc.

I would take her attempts, continued attempts, to connect with you as a positive, not as a 'niggle.'

I think your 'icky' feelings are just temporary as someone read your private stuff without your knowing and you probably feel caught in a werid way.

Why don't you follow up with a real, live phone call, not email or phone message and ask her directly? And be honest, on one hand you are mortified, on the other your honored that she is responding in a genuinely positive way. She should be able to connect the dots. Take it from there. Try to read people's body language and voice intonation.

Unless your life is so full of lovely friends and blessed with fantastic opportunities, I would not let these attempts to connect with you fizzle.

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answers from Hartford on

I don't believe she owes you an apology for having read the blogs. The fact that you said that if it were anyone else but her it wouldn't have mattered seals that for me. I'm sure that she sent her initial e-mail as a reflex of self-defense about her company, but at the same time she probably feels responsible for what happened. If she valued you (and still does, it seems) then she's putting stock in your version of events whether she wants to or not. This must be a wake up call for her. The fact that she's still writing to you about the issues and what she read means it all struck a chord with her. She's been thinking about it. Maybe it will lead to changes in the company.

Maybe there's a reason that blog wasn't quite airtight, and maybe there's a reason she's the one who stumbled onto it. God works in mysterious ways.

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answers from Columbus on

I have to admit, I didn't finish reading your post. I got to the point where you said the private one was online and I don't have time to finish, but I had to wonder -- if it's private and unsearchable, why not just type it on your hard drive? Anything you put on the internet, no matter how "private" you think it is, is in the hands of strangers who own the server and run the site. If you don't want people to see it ever, take it down!

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answers from Tampa on

Sorry, she doesn't owe you an apology at all for reading your put it out there where she could see it...even if it wasn't intentional. Move on. Don't burn your never know when you might actually need her as a reference.

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answers from Los Angeles on

You've already let her know the nature of the journal and that you are embarrassed. I don't think there is anymore to be done but to give it some time to pass. These things are icky when they happen, but eventually we all move on.
If it makes you feel better, not knowing exactly how a shared google document works, I made comments and corrections on my pastors sermon once. Its a long story, but she gave a sermon I seriously disagreed with. I wrote to our central conference and C.C the senior pastor, who shared it with her. She asked for a meeting with me. We did meet, and in the process she sent me her written sermon in the form of a google document. I ripped it to shreds with comments but told my husband I didn't feel it was my place to critique her and I only did it for my benefit, but that I did not "send it." Then my husband explained to me how a google document works and does not require any sending. Opps. I went back and erased my comments but they had been on there a good long time (like a month). I'm really glad she is no longer at our church so I don't have to look at her.

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answers from Seattle on

HINT: Next time just save each as a draft! That way it's 'empty' to everyone else, except to you.

As far as your old boss? Most people don't have time to be evil.

She probably either resonated with what you wrote and is looking to start a friendship with someone she mentally/emotionally 'clicks' with, or is feeling guilty, seeing things from your vantage.

I'd feel sick to my stomach, too! But the chances of her smirking up her sleeve while she screws with you are slim.

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answers from Dallas on

When someone reads our personal stuff when it's not intended, it feels icky. It sounds like the things you wrote struck a chord with her, and she wants you to know you're not alone with how you feel. It sounds like she's been in a tough place too and was extending support.

I don't know the job history, but if the CEO was not directly involved in your leaving - they control a lot, but not everything - then don't consider her specifically as responsible for "forcing you out" unless she actually did. It sounds like, from your description here, that she was pleased with your performance. Even if the top dog likes you and your work, other circumstances can still make the job not work. The situation may have forced you out, but that's not quite the same thing.

I agree with the communication by phone or maybe do coffee. Feel things out in the "real" world, not the virtual world. Virtual communications are too blurry. If she's willing to be a reference for you, let that connection build. She may be able to help you move forward into your next job. You were both being "real" due to the accidental journaling, so go from that assumption. Good luck!

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answers from Las Vegas on

I would feel ill at ease at first but then... what can you do, dwell on it? you can't change what happened....right? Therefore, try and accept what is... what is is that she said she'd be a reference for you. (not many have an opportunity as such) most have co-workers and former managers as their references. YOU however have a CEO...... so why not use that to your advantage... try not to let your pride/ego get in the way of what could be a great opportunity... Granted, the question that arises for me is... True why would a CEO read your private journal but moreover, the bigger question.... as someone running a company, why would she care... seems to me she would have more pressing things to do.. Which leads me to.... She seems to have an affinity towards you and has offered her book suggestions.. You may want to also use this opportunity to take a step back and not see it as a personal violation but as a chance to mirror a successful person. she is afterall a CEO ... there aren't a lot of people who don't get the chance to even have a discussion with one let alone use them as a reference...
Take advantage of this situation.. Also, keep in mind, did you blog during work time? if so, maybe she should be pissed at that... I mean so often employees these days are texting or using work time for personal time.. Anyway, either you can decide to stay the victim *by your own hand) afterall, if was you who missed the privacy setting and by virtue of that, your journal was open field day... let's be honest, "most" people would have read it.. I know many who would have read all entries and not just 16.. That aspect is over and done with... lesson learned... now all you can do is move forward... write her back, thank her so much for offering to be a reference .... and move on.. it's really not that big of a deal... or at least it doesn't have to be... Lastly, you weren't there very long , if you feel truly weird about the situation, don't even put the job on your resume'.... just let it go and move on... that is something I might consider... in fact, I wouldn't would NOT add it to my resume'... which also means, I wouldn't use her as a reference unless I totally needed to... you got the job without her, therefore, you don't need her to get another one right? so there are different ways to view the whole thing..

good luck

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answers from Phoenix on

I think it's time to accept that what's done is done, learn the lesson & move on. Any further explanation or justification you try to give her will just make you look bad, at this point.

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answers from Kansas City on

I'm honestly a little confused. How did she stumble upon this site? Did you accidentally link the blog in the email? Did she previously have access to it, did she google it? I just don't get it. I feel like I need to understand that before I can really answer.

But, if it was accidentally linked then maybe she thought you were trying to send her this for her to read it and then act like it was a mistake and now she's trying to "fix" it for herself and for you.

If she literally just "happened" upon it from google or something, well she was obviously looking for connections to you for a reason. Maybe she wants to hire you back, maybe she wants to help you, I don't know, but she wouldn't be googling you for no reason.

In the end, I feel like she's a pretty nice person if you no longer work for her and she wanted to wish you a happy birthday and took the time to send you a personal email.

If you want to say something to her, which I might just keep ignoring it until it goes away, I would send her a response that basically says, you know I'm so embarassed that you read that and it wasn't my intetnion. Since those posts I have coped with it and feel better about the situation, thanks for your concern. You really don't want to burn the bridge so you have to be very tactful.

Good luck!

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answers from Dallas on

Lesson learned. If you don't want it advertised, don't put it on the internet..ever. It's time to invest in notebooks and a pen or set up a word document for journaling.

Is it possible that she read it and genuinely feels bad about your side of the story? If her company doesn't come out looking stellar, maybe she's hoping to change your impression? If it were me, I'd probably just politely tell her that I appreciated her concern, your journal was a private venting session and that you are moving on. I'd also probably nicely mention that I really was not in need of "moving on" book recommendations. Be cordial. If she is really well connected in your field, you probably don't want to strain the relationship more than it is already strained.

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answers from Boston on

Ouch. You're really stuck. I get how you feel - violated, invaded, etc.

I do think she's going overboard in her encouragement especially with what you put about her company pushing you out. BUT maybe she feels guilty for that but can't admit it because, obviously, online stuff is public. She could be covering her corporate butt too. However, you may need her for a reference so it's best not to blast her.

I agree that she did you a favor by letting you know your private info was public. It could be worse with people knowing about it who you really can't stand and who are in your private life. You at least don't have to see this woman again.

I'd write one last brief email saying that you are glad to know that your most private thoughts were publicly available, and you appreciate her informing you of this. Then say you are sure she understands that, since it was extremely private, you don't want to continue discussing it with anyone. Your relationship with her was professional and you wish it to remain so, and you appreciate her discretion and confidentiality. (That implies pretty emphatically that you don't want the relationship to be personal.) Say you have listened to her many suggestions and will consider them, and that you will make the decision going forward of what is best for you. Wish her well in her future endeavors. That will sound sort of final.

Don't respond to any telephone calls or future emails.

Good luck. You can move on from this.

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answers from Kansas City on

i would look at it kind of as cosmic karma...from what you said it sounds as if she is coming from a good place. now you just have to swallow your embarrassment and let her "help". (i mean of course, let her try to help, and just nod and smile while she does.) unless as you say, you want to burn bridges that may be useful later down the line. to me that's what it boils down to. good luck.

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answers from Baton Rouge on

If you don't want anyone else to see it, don't put it online. Period. End of sentence.
No matter how tight you think your security settings are, there's always the chance that something you don't want seen will be seen.
Why not just keep your journal on a Word document and not on the web?



answers from Billings on

I honestly think she feels guilty because she knows deep-down she crapped on you. And now I think she's just trying to cover her butt and ease her own conscience by trying to butter you up. She sounds like an old boss of mine. I would avoid responding to any of her "reaching out". I think it's B.S.



answers from Washington DC on

If she keeps sending you unwanted tips say, "CEO, that journal was private and not meant for you to read. I don't want discuss it with you anymore, or anything related to it. I want to move on."

She's probably trying to cover her own @$$ and maybe feels protective of her business and doesn't want you to say anything else that might reflect poorly on her/them. I've found that how management may think they behave and how they actually do (or how their orders are carried out) are different things.

I don't think she owes you an apology for reading something that she stumbled upon. However, you can ask her to stop the emails of unwanted "concern". If you need her for a reference later, then do so professionally and politely. You can obviously write well enough to capture her attention.


answers from Tulsa on

It was online and there are a lot of people who put personal stuff online for everyone to see. I wouldn't expect her to apologize for reading the entries, since they were available for her to see. I don't see an online blog the same as I see a diary. If it is online, there is the potential for anyone to see it. If you write it in a book and don't offer it to anyone to read, then yes, that would be a violation of your privacy.

I don't remember everything that happened with your old job, but everyone has a different perspective and there may have been additional things going on that you didn't know about. I'd just let that part go. I agree that since you have told her those were meant to be private, she should quit talking to you about them. I would send her an email back and indicate that you are uncomfortable discussing those issues with her and would appreciate if she would not bring them up anymore. If you want to keep a friendly relationship with her, you can ask her about her day and move on from there. Honestly, with her knowing what you wrote, would you trust her to be a reference for you? If not, burn the bridge. It wouldn't be worth saving.

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