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Home | Got a Minute | Bad bosses | No. 132 – I think my boss has bugged my office. But how can I prove it?

No. 132 – I think my boss has bugged my office. But how can I prove it?

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8 November 2023

Each week, Dr Kirstin Ferguson tackles questions on the workplace, career and leadership in her advice column “Got a Minute?” This week: a bugged office theory, an ATAR guide holding back a hopeful applicant and pay transparency in a male-dominated workplace.

I was recently moved into a separate office because my boss was uncomfortable with my close relationship with my team, and I have a strong suspicion my conversations there are being recorded. I find that conversations I have with my colleagues are suddenly brought up by my boss and subtle questions are asked regarding discussions I had while she wasn’t around. Is voice recording legal and if not, what can I do to prove it?

I am going to ask the obvious question first. What makes you so sure there is a listening device when, it would seem more likely, that your colleagues are talking about your conversations, either directly with your boss or with others, and the conversation has been passed on? Jumping to the conclusion of a listening device seems an extreme position when it is probably more likely someone has – either inadvertently or deliberately – spoken to someone else. Loose lips sink ships, and all that.

It sounds like there is a significant lack of trust between you and your boss, and I wonder whether this is the healthiest culture for you to remain working in. It sounds like you and your boss have issues with one another, which can make your working environment very challenging. I would definitely think about whether it may be time for you to move to a workplace where you feel respected and able to talk freely, if you are starting to believe you can’t do that right now now.

If you do find a listening device in your office, seek immediate advice from a lawyer or the police, since their use is illegal in most Australian states.

I’m a law student, and a job that I want to apply for as a paralegal requires me to have an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) above 96. This makes me ineligible to apply – since my ATAR was above 95, but below 96. Is there anything I can do?

Absolutely! I would apply for the job with the law firm, show them how exceptional you are and ask them to consider your application on its merits. The ATAR cut-off guide will be, I am certain, simply an arbitrary benchmark to filter out applicants and there will be many other factors the firm will no doubt consider when they recruit a new paralegal.

Bottom line: if there is something you want to do, never let something like this stop you from having a go. Your determination to be part of their team, your commitment to the profession and your willingness to have a go is worth far more than a single ATAR score. Good luck!

I am a woman currently working in an industry traditionally dominated by men. How do I know if my salary is the same as a male doing the same job as me, given the culture of not discussing salaries?

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) data is a great place to start. I don’t know what industry you work in but if, hypothetically, it was construction, you can see the data shows the gender pay gap is 29 per cent. If your organisation claims to value diversity and inclusion, and would like to see more women within the industry, you would hope that means they are actively taking steps to reduce the gender pay gap. Why don’t you speak to your manager or HR, and ask them whether a gender pay audit has been done or what your company’s WGEA reporting looked like this year? I think you can ask them to reassure you that there is no pay gap between you and your male colleagues and if there is, whether they have plans to rectify it.

I agree it is a difficult issue without a clear picture of what your male colleagues are earning, but I think starting the conversation and asking for data from your employer is a solid place to begin. You might also like to keep an eye on internal vacancies and external job advertisements to keep across the market salaries being paid for like-for-like roles.

To submit a question about work, careers or leadership, visit (you will not be asked to provide your name or any identifying information. Letters may be edited).

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