Sunday, January 24, 2016

Loose talk can unhinge workplace prospects

Separating personal life from work is always a good idea. But in real life things can get mixed up often as work, office politics and coworkers become a topic of discussion with spouses, friends and even casual acquaintances. And when the lines are blurred, trouble can ensue.

If you are not protecting your job by keeping work issues, plans and secrets at the office, you may be violating confidentiality agreements or, even worse, leaking information that can be critical for the competition and harmful to the employer.

In a less severe situation, when causal acquaintances including romantic partners get hold of vital information, they may use this knowledge against you if the relationship turns sour. That is why unless you are venting to a long-term friend or a spouse, do watch whom you are talking with about work issues.

If you don’t know a person well, consider taking some precautions when talking about work, coworkers, the supervisor, etc. It doesn’t mean you should keep the work a secret; but just make it less easy for someone to know details that can hurt the employer or your professional standing.

Confidential information

As mentioned, confidential business information should never be shared with strangers. People often make the mistake of thinking someone will have absolutely no purpose of using such information because it appears to be irrelevant to them. False.

If you haven’t explored this person’s relatives, work relationships and career plans, you may be disclosing too much to the wrong person.

The mere assumption that someone will not misuse the information to their benefit is not a sufficient guarantee that the information will remain confidential. In addition, even if that person doesn’t think much of the employer’s work secrets, such information can inadvertently be repeated to someone who does misuse it.


If associating with the supervisor or coworkers is proving a struggle, you may be happy to find someone who listens to your venting. If this person can’t be trusted, such an act can be detrimental to your job — especially if you do put this in writing.

A rule of thumb even with people whom you trust is to never document anything that can come back to hurt you. If you want to vent to a friend or a partner, do so in private conversations rather than over email or text messages. Even if this person does protect your private thoughts, having these rants in any written form can be dangerous if they get forwarded or copied by mistake.

Casual friends

Getting too comfortable too soon with casual friends and romantic partners can also bring problems, especially when a relationship ends on not very good terms. An angry ex-partner showing up at your office to settle personal issues won’t do any good.

Such situations can cause serious damage to your standing with an employer. Make your workplace less accessible to people that you don’t fully know and trust.

For example, don’t invite a casual friend to stop by your office. Don’t provide details about the exact address of where you work and with whom. Although it may seem unlikely that someone will show up at your office, it could happen and cost you dearly if the situation gets out of control.

Similarly, be careful not to share details of your coworkers’ personal lives with people you don’t fully know. Is your supervisor going through a divorce or having financial problems? If you became aware of this information, that is because you’re a trusted person.

Make sure to protect this trust by not sharing such details with others in general and with people whom you don’t fully know in particular.

Again, assuming that there is no way your friend or friends will know this person in the office is not enough. Think of how many times you were surprised by mutual friends. That should help you think twice before opening up to a stranger about others.

The writer, a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, is a Seattle-based editor.

Don’t overshare your work details

Beware of what you share with casual friends and partners.

Don’t badmouth your coworkers or supervisors.

Avoid making the workplace accessible to others.

Protect the privacy of your coworkers.

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