Today, thanks to cell phones, we are constantly surrounded by conversations. People talk while they are walking, shopping, and eating. It seems like there are no longer filters on language used or content discussed. If nearby, you can listen to the intricacies of a legal matter or the intimacies of a personal relationship.
This same behavior can be observed in the office. Though a conversation you’re having may seem harmless, it can have damaging effects. For example, perhaps you use profanity when speaking to friends or arguing with a family member, but disrespectful language is not acceptable in your setting. People may be surprised to hear the negative way you speak to others and that could change their good opinion of you.
Conversely, coworkers should not be privy to your personal communication with your finance or significant other. Your personal life is none of their business and, at worst, overhearing even one side of a conversation filled with sexual innuendo is awkward and inappropriate at work.
Damage to your organization may also occur. Often employees don’t think about who is hearing their conversations in elevators, in the cafeteria, while waiting for a meeting to start, or in a public venue. You may not know trade secrets, but you may be working on a grant proposal or trying to recruit a new customer or hire an employee in which competitors are interested. Your overheard remarks may give them an advantage.
Perhaps even worse, you may be complaining about what a jerk your boss is, and her boss is in the back of the elevator. Or her husband had just dropped by to meet your boss for lunch and overhears your remarks. These overhead remarks can create disastrous situations for you.
In many settings like health care or law offices, divulging confidential information in any format will result in termination of your employment. So always be certain your private communication is truly private and always publicly appropriate.
Photo Credit: Ognlan Mladenov