My workplace uses key fobs to enter our building in all 4 locations except the entrance that opens up to the front desk. These locations are distributed fairly evenly on each side of the building. Recently, security is investing effort into ensuring no one is "piggy backing" off of anyone else's key fob to get into the building.

It's my understanding that historically these efforts have long been taken lightly, as the company is fairly small and everyone tends to know each other (meaning there's a general assumption that we all know who we can let in, and that even if we did, surely it would be quickly discovered that they didn't belong here).

The Issue

I don't personally feel our building security is at great risk, but I'd like to appease both parties (security team and friendly coworkers) and avoid being caught in an awkward confrontation, in which I could get reprimanded.

Because of this, I feel it's better to just follow the rules altogether. The problem is that I don't feel comfortable with any approach I've thought of on my own.

My instinct is to say

Would you mind scanning your key fob since they've asked us to not allow each other in anymore?

but I've always backed down from saying anything at fear of receiving an eye roll by my peers, as no one else seems to take this seriously.

Additionally, I'm terrible with faces. It's difficult for me to tell the difference between a stranger and 75% of the people that work in this building with me, even though I see them all frequently and most of them know me by name. Because of this, I feel like it would come off as rude to admit I don't recognize one of them.

While I'm usually able to avoid this situation by pacing my steps differently from others approaching the door, I'd like to be prepared for the next situation in which I'm unable to do so.

What is the best way I can ask someone to follow this security requirement without sounding like a stickler?

3 Answers 3


You say something like this:

Hi! Sorry, can you do me a favor? I have to ask you to scan your fob, would you mind? We've had to tighten procedures lately due to a recent incident. It's nothing personal, again, sorry.

Of course, the "recent incident" is them telling you to tighten up security. But the two things that you need to convey are

  1. It's nothing personal
  2. You've been told to do so.
  • this answer assumes that the other person doesn't know about the security being tightened already (and are just ignoring it or taking it lightly as the OP said)
    – JoeTomks
    Nov 22, 2017 at 9:25
  • @Digitalsa1nt - I don't think it does, it presents the facade of that assumption, as opposed to "hey, jerk, they told us not to do that!" If they already know about it, then there's no legitimate reason for them to act put out about complying with it. Jan 15, 2018 at 16:01
  • @PoloHoleSet it's this line specifically "We've had to tighten procedures lately due to a recent incident." that I have an issue with, because what if the other person already knows about the incident, it sounds like you're talking to them as if they are not part of the company and as such that gives the impression you don't know that they work there; something that the OP wanted to avoid.
    – JoeTomks
    Jan 15, 2018 at 16:04
  • 1
    @Digitalsa1nt feel free to provide an answer yourself if you think this one is inadequate
    – user4548
    Jan 15, 2018 at 16:17
  • @TheSnarkKnight There's not really much point submitting an answer which would likely be almost identical to yours with the exception of a slight phrasing change. Comments are at their core for critique and suggestions regarding an existing answer, apologies if I offended you.
    – JoeTomks
    Jan 15, 2018 at 16:20

Security is non-negotiable.

It's really as simple as that. The point of security rules is that the rules must be followed by everyone. People don't get to circumvent a rule because it's easier, or whatever justification they can come up with.

Of course, this is all within reason. Don't enforce security rules e.g. if the building is on fire and everyone is escaping. For similar reason, EMTs will be allowed through without needing a key fob.

You are not in charge of others' adherence to security rules.

I think this part is essential. When the company drafts the rules, the company is the beneficiary here. They can expect you to follow the rules, but they cannot expect you to ensure that others follow the rules.

And this is where the system falls apart. It shouldn't be your job to ensure that random passersby follow the rules to a tee. Unless you're literally hired as a security officer; which I surmise you are not.

Not only would such an expectation unfairly offload (unpaid) work onto you, but there's also an issue with presumptuous behavior. Have you been kept in the loop about everyone's access privileges, including guests, maintenance staff etc? No? Then you can't be held responsible for failing to bar someone access from somewhere.

The current company I work at has enforced such a presumptuous nature in its employees. It's customary here for new hires to get introduced to literally every employee (>100!), and everyone expects that they know everyone else. I'm a consultant, and even though I work here, I wasn't given a tour (not that I would want one, to be honest).
However, that expectation of knowing everyone is a constant hassle for me. I've had people refuse me access to the elevator based on their assumption that I don't work here, because they would have been introduced to me. They've put a wheel clamp on my car. I've been removed from a floor (one above where I usually work) because I wanted to get a cup of coffee and they had never seen me before (note that their kitchen is used by 4 floors, so it's not unusual to see people not from their team).

Enforcing security should be left to security personnel.

You're caught between a rock and a hard place. Now what?

This is an issue for you, because you're stuck between two IPS problems: antagonizing your employer (you come across as defiant of authority), or antagonizing your colleagues (you come across as a pedantic nitpicker). If you start enforcing the rules strictly, it impacts on your social standing with your colleagues (the company suffers less from it) and you're doing work that you're not hired to do.

I've always tried to find a middle ground here; because either extreme is going to end up costing on a social/professional level. And in the long term, social problems can become professional ones (especially since I'm a consultant who needs to get contract renewals).

  • I don't intentionally hold the door open for people I don't know.
  • If someone is able to go through the door after me, without me intentionally holding it open for them, that is their breach of security protocol, not mine.
  • If I come up behind someone else and the door is still open, I will probably use the open door, but will definitely still use my badge to register that I've used the door.

I think this is the best way to both avoid any wrongdoing in the company's eyes, and also not actively antagonizing my colleagues.

If the company wants the security policy to be enforced without fail; then they should post a security officer to ensure that everyone uses their fob. Not my circus, not my monkeys.

The expectation that the work can be offloaded onto the staff based on a "everyone does their part" argument is presumptuous and flawed. Are they dedicating some of your contracted work time to enforcement of security protocol? I would guess not.

Again, they can require you to follow the rules; but they cannot require you to make others follow the rules.

But what to say?

My answer is devoid of a particular phrasing. While you often find suggested phrasing in IPS answers, the issue here is that you are being judged on your actions more than your words.

There are of course good and bad ways to speak to someone, but that's a general rule that applies to every situation. There's nothing specific about this situation, I would merely be copy/pasting the gist of every other IPS answer with no particular applicability to this question.

The issue here is that it's your behavior (not your statements) that avoids (or causes) the conflict. As such, my answer tried to suggest how to behave in regards to the security protocol while avoiding interpersonal conflict (both with your colleagues and your employer).

There's one case where phrasing does help:

If someone uses the door after you, without using their fob, and you wish to inform them that it's against security protocol. Not so much to be a stickler, but rather to inform someone who may honestly not be aware of the rules.

Looking at your question, you're basically trying to find a way to kindly tell them that they should use their fob. Asking it in the form of a question is the politest way to approach this, I agree with you there. However, I consider the nature of the request (telling them what to do) to be offensive, regardless of how kindly it is phrased.

Referring back to your question:

What is the best way I can ask someone to follow this security requirement without sounding like a stickler?

I think it's unavoidable to come across as a stickler, because you are approaching this person and telling them what to do, for no reason other than your desire for having the rules be followed by everyone. That's pretty much the definition of a stickler.

If you're a security officer, then it's not offensive (when phrased kindly) because it's your job. Not asking them would endanger your employment, and thus it's forgivable/understandable for you to approach them. I can't fault a salesman for trying to sell me his product.
But when you're just a random passerby, the lack of apparent justification for you to tell them what to do will likely rub some people the wrong way, regardless of phrasing.

I would opt for sticking to the facts, and not telling others what to do (implicitly or not). That person has to decide for himself if he's going to follow security protocol or not, you can merely inform them of the correct approach.

I'm not sure if you saw the recent memo. In case you didn't, security protocol has been tightened, the company asks that all employees use their fob when using these doors. You might get in trouble for not using yours.

  • You avoid any presumption that they're doing something they're not allowed to. There are valid reasons to not use a fob, e.g. when I had issues with my badge, and it took a day to fix, I was told to ask a colleague to escort me or give me their badge. I wouldn't want to continually get told to use my badge (or get held up because they see me using someone else's badge) by a random passerby (unaware of my situation) every time I took a smoke break.
  • You stuck to undeniable facts: There is a security policy about using your fob. He did not use his fob (regardless of why he didn't). You've not made any assumption, that person cannot (honestly) refute anything you just said, because everything your said is the objective truth.
  • By mentioning the memo (even if it's not all that recent anymore), the conversation ends up on a more lighthearted informative tone, as opposed to reprimanding for not following security protocol (because of ignorance or indifference). Essentially, you give the other person a non-awkward way out of the conversation; while you still achieved your goal (reminding them).
  • Your statement is informative, not imperative. You don't tell them what to do. You merely mention the potential consequence of not doing so. It's their decision.
  • @downvoter: care to elaborate why the downvote? I'm willing to improve the answer if I know what needs improving. I'm also doubtful that you read the entire answer in <5 seconds between it being posted and downvoting it.
    – Flater
    Nov 22, 2017 at 10:31
  • I think the last section is a good answer :) I'm not sure how the rest of it answers the question though, particularly the first two sections. Regardless of whether you think the company's request was appropriate, it seems clear that the OP wants to comply anyways.
    – Em C
    Nov 22, 2017 at 13:46
  • @EmC: The answer to the question "how do I politely tell someone they're inferior to me?" is "Don't", because the nature of the message is inherently offensive (I'm aware this is an extreme example, but it proves the principle). Similarly, OP's question defeats itself: he wants to be a stickler (getting everyone to comply with rules, because he wants them to) without coming across as a stickler. Hence the suggestion to avoid the issue altogether, as it's arguably not OP's job and can be considered a minor case of vigilantism, and there will always be people who take offense to that.
    – Flater
    Nov 22, 2017 at 13:55
  • You explain that all in the last section, though, so I'm having a hard time reading the two sections before it as more than a rant about how you disagree with the policy.
    – Em C
    Nov 22, 2017 at 14:37
  • +1, but I disagree with “You might get in trouble for not using yours.” OP says he is bad w faces, he might be saying this to the VP. A simple “security has told everyone to use their key fob, and asked us not to allow piggybacking”. End of conversation. I agree that expecting employees to actually “stop” someone is not appropriate and possibly dangerous.
    – SeraM
    Nov 25, 2017 at 16:48

Reading your question carefully I think we can break this down into two primary problems:

I'd like to appease both parties (security team and friendly co-workers) and avoid being caught in an awkward confrontation, in which I could get reprimanded.

Because of this, I feel it's better to just follow the rules altogether. The problem is that I don't feel comfortable with any approach I've thought of on my own.

  1. you want to ensure that you politely ask those entering the building behind you to scan their fob. You want to do this in such a way as not to come across rude or overly aggressive.

Additionally, I'm terrible with faces. It's difficult for me to tell the difference between a stranger and 75% of the people that work in this building with me, even though I see them all frequently and most of them know me by name. Because of this, I feel like it would come off as rude to admit I don't recognize one of them.

  1. You want to make sure that if you do not recognize the individual your request does not make that obvious to the person you're speaking to.

I'd suggest using something like the following with people that you don't recognise:

Hey could you do me a favour and just quickly scan your fob, security mentioned it to me the other day that every one needs to get into the habit on the way in, [smile politely if warranted] thanks.

This doesn't acknowledge them as either a guest, or an employee, it simply appeals to their better nature by suggesting this is a favour and passes some of the reasoning on to a personal request by security.

If it's a colleague you know then by all means perhaps consider addressing them by name:

Hey [Employee name], could you do me a favour and scan your fob.

This is short and sweet, you know they work for the company and they should already be aware of the security procedures. Ensure a non-aggressive cheerful tone and I don't think you can go too far wrong. Obviously be as colloquial as you feel comfortable, but there's absolutely no need to make it a formal request; keep it casual but assertive.

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