Q. I am a news director of a radio station. A lot of my material is based on news releases that are sent to my attention through the mail for use on the air.
So I get a lot of mail.
Several months ago, without comment or explanation, the owner of the radio station began opening letters addressed to me or the news department the day they arrived. He reads them and then places them back in their envelopes.
The station manager and sales manager say he also opens their mail.
We have written this off as one of the owner's idiosyncrasies, but I am getting madder as time goes on and this practice continues.
Is the mail addressed to us at our place of employment ours or the employer's?
A. I can't give you an answer based on the law -- even the courts are having difficulty deciding privacy issues crisply and consistently.
However, a couple of things seem clear. The information that people send to you at the station, in your capacity as the news director, is for use by the station and not by you as an individual. So the contents belong to the station.
To see this, consider the following: The station could resell that information to another station. You couldn't.
Having said that, the practice of the boss's opening an employee's mail -- without comment, explanation or permission -- strikes me as odious beyond belief. Is he going to rifle your desk next?
A discussion with your boss is in order, aimed at discovering what he is looking for -- and why.
A reader responds: "You have criticized employers from time to time for not responding to job applicants.
"I have been both an interviewer and an interviewee. I, too, was often stunned by the lack of the simple courtesy of a reply.
"However, later, when I worked for a company that advertised for two positions and received more than 200 resumes for each, I gained a better appreciation for what is happening in such situations. It would take a good deal of time and effort to respond to each and every one of the resumes such an ad generates.
"I think a company should send out a postcard with a standard reply, like 'Thank you very much for your application, but ...' At least then applicants can stop hoping that they might hear from the company down the road."
Well, the solution you propose isn't so good, either. Many job applicants may take offense at it: Having the landlord be the first to see that you were turned down for a job -- and perhaps for many jobs -- isn't appealing.
In this age of word processors, it just isn't that hard to generate a rejection letter and stuff it in an envelope. Not even if you must do 200 of them.
Those are anxious human beings, checking their mail every day, looking for an answer.
Besides, they may also be your customers or potential employees another time. Investing 29 cents in them may be a good move.
Andrew Grove is chief executive of Intel Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif., and an author and lecturer on management. Please send questions to him in care of the San Jose Mercury News, Business News Department, 750 Ridder Park Dr., San Jose, Calif. 95190.