IT Employment

10 things you should keep to yourself at the office

Discretion is the better part of professionalism. Here are a few unwritten rules to keep you from getting in hot water at work.

Things to keep to yourself


"When in Rome..." is a common phrase people toss off to excuse a behavior. But "When in the office," your behavior could easily get you ostracized or fired (or both). While most companies have plenty of rules to follow it's the unwritten rules that can often cause the most trouble.

One such unwritten rule is that there are certain things you shouldn't share/spread/do at work. Here are 10 of them. Some are quite obvious; some are not. Some could get you into serious trouble; some only get the finger of shame pointed your way. See how many of these rules you have broken.

1: Drama

Drama is something that should have ceased in high school. But the truth of the matter is, we all fall victim of drama now and then. Whether it's dragged in from the home front or involves co-workers and bosses, drama can easily send you into a downward spiral. The end result of too much drama in the office is becoming that employee no one wants to associate with… or getting fired. There is enough stress in an office environment. No need to add to it.

2: Rumors

Rumors damage both the source and the target. Most often, interoffice rumors have to do with people sleeping together, getting promoted, or getting fired. When you get involved in the rumor mill you are guilty of damaging the reputation of the person the rumor is about – as well as your own. If you disseminate enough rumors, no one will trust you. And in the end, no one wants to work with someone they can't trust.

3: Jealousy

Jealousy is an ugly beast, no matter how you look at it. And it's easy to get jealous at the office. Some people get promoted, rewarded, praised -- and some do not. There are instances when that promotion/reward/praise is unwarranted, so it's natural to become jealous of the person who received it. The thing is, jealousy leads to even worse patterns of behavior -- such as spreading damaging rumors.

4: Libido

Libido can really cause serious issues in the office. It's not worth it. No matter how perfect you think you and the new woman in accounting would be, it will end badly. Relationships end -- but when they end in the office, you still have to work together. Besides, your company might have rules against interoffice relationships. People get hurt, jobs get lost. Avoid it at all cost.

5: Personal life

You can't always prevent your personal life from seeping into work. You have issues at home and you want someone to talk to about it. You need to vent about your spouse, your kids, your opportunistic uncle who's been sleeping on your couch for a month... and you feel like the office is a safe haven. It's not. Although your co-workers might want to know what's going on at the homestead, your bosses and their bosses do not. Leave your personal life out of your work life. By doing that you're sure to not blur any lines that could come back to haunt you at home.

6: Confidential information

Confidential information is given to you in, you guessed it, confidence. If your manager or the owner of the company has given you confidential information or if you have confidential information about a fellow employee (that you gained from outside sources), keep it to yourself. This actually has multiple layers to it, one of which has legal ramifications. Do not fall into this trap.

7: Plans to quit

Thoughts or plans of quitting are easily spread between employees. If you've made the decision to leave your job, you may be tempted to let everyone on your level know. You may even feel a sense of righteous freedom by spreading the news. But if you do that, your departure from the company could come much sooner than anticipated. And quitting a job and getting fired from a job say very different things about you. Do not tell anyone about your plans to leave until it's time to actually leave.

8: Politics and religion

Politics and religion are dangerous subjects to discuss in the office. Such discussions draw definite and hard boundaries between co-workers and can cause bitterness, resentfulness, arguments, and anger. There's a reason why so many people refuse to discuss either of these topics. They are both personal and should be kept private. I've spent a good number of years working with people of completely different political and religious mindsets from myself. The only way to do so is to keep my own opinions/feelings/thoughts to myself.

9: Salary

Salary should never been discussed. Ever. Unless it is with the person who writes your check. No fellow employees have the right to know your salary and you have no right to know theirs. In the knowing, you might develop feelings of jealousy -- and we all know what that leads to. This information should be confidential. You see where this is going.

10: Social media remarks

Social accounts can cause problems. Against better judgment, you might post something hateful about a coworker (or the company itself) to one of your social networking accounts. If you do that, and your co-workers or bosses have access to that account, you have set off a time bomb. Keep your social networking clearly separated from work. Don't share your Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or Tumblr accounts with anyone at work. LinkedIn is a different story. Just make sure your Twitter feed doesn't populate in LinkedIn, or you've stripped away that demarcation.

The high road

Yes, some rules are meant to be broken. But if you break them at work, be prepared to take on the consequences. Of course, every company and office is different. You may work in an environment where some of these rules don't apply. Even so, always use common sense before you share anything with your co-workers. You'll have a much happier, productive, and drama-free work life.

Other advice?

Do you have any rules to add to this list? Have you seen firsthand how some of these issues can create discord in an office environment? Share your thoughts and experiences with fellow TechRepublic members.



About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

13 comments
common sense
common sense

re: Don't share your social networking: it doesn't work. If you have posted it on the Interwebs then it can be found and read by anyone. Therefore ASSUME that whatever you post is likely read by everyone. And, "everyone" may be reading this right now, or as soon as I click on the "Post comment" button.

My company does not have a written policy about not discussing salaries but it isn't done. It depends on the company's culture. There is still political discussion, and my colleagues are all over the map. You have to be able to separate political views from the work being done. Engineering is not a political stand.

watkinsrn
watkinsrn

The trouble with lists like this is that they're all or nothing things.  NEVER talk politics, NEVER share personal information, etc.  The reality is that a balance is required.  You have to bring some of who you are to work to create a culture of trust and collaboration.  People can't trust who they don't know.  But that doesn't mean sharing every little drama and problem.  Share, but stay positive.

I also disagree with the rule about salaries. The only way to hold employers accountable for unfair pay practices is to be able to discuss compensation with fellow workers.

gamesb00k
gamesb00k

"Leave your personal life out of your work life."

 This is naive and really unrealistic.  Fo many of us, our work life seeps completely into our own "personal" life. My colleagues are human beings and knowing some of what happens "after hours" help me understand them better and relate better to them.  In the end, we only have one life!

laughter
laughter

I'd never work for a company that forbids me talking about my salary. 

jdcnservices
jdcnservices

My personal experience is that the places with rules like not discussing salaries usually have the lowest morale.  Coincidence?

sf_jeff
sf_jeff

It is a crying shame that politics are lumped into the same bucket as religion, considering that for 9 people out of 10, politics will have more impact on their lifetime earnings than whether they go to college, what degree they choose, or what profession they decide to chase.  If we were still earning the same share of revenues that we were in 1970 (even ignoring the fact that our economy would be much larger) then the average person making 50,000 today would instead be making 90,000.  The fact that this has become a taboo topic in the work place just goes to emphasize that the battle is half lost.  This is in fact the central purpose of "The big lie" - to set up a topic so divisive that it cannot be discussed without acrimony, so that the very separation this creates becomes the shelter for the lie.

RG Bargy
RG Bargy

Alcohol and other stimuli/mood altering substances - If you wouldn't drink, or anything else, and drive, you shouldn't drink, or anything else, and work.

remcf
remcf

The old golden rule applies....'if you cant say something positive ..do not say anything at all'.

Poli Tecs
Poli Tecs

Salary - yes, human envy is one of the most powerful emotions. It will create resentfulness and hate.

Plans to quit - not sure, sometimes creating a low level rumor like this can reach key management whom may like you and it can save your job. Proceed with caution.

Politics and religion - completely disagree. There was a time in our country where this would not be on a list like this along with all the rest I am not listing or commenting on. We are adults and while yes, we are emotional beings, can be blinded by it, grow the F up and put certain things aside that are not directly relevant to the job! Most importantly, politics used to be a conversation in the church and that's gone. It used to be a conversation at the local coffee shop, that's nearly gone. It used to be a topic at Thanksgiving, now we don't. Its the most important subject we must talk about or wd lose our freedom in a soft manor like social norms of "don't talk politics" all the way the complete erasing of your 1st Amendment. So guess what, we're told not to talk about it and our country is nearly gone! Make the connection! Talk, be vigorous and grown up about it. Make your case and argument convincing. It can save your country.

MrCyberdude
MrCyberdude

9.Salary. Rubbish, people should be aware of what each persons role is and their compensation for that role. Not having salary levels that are open and transparent creates employee division and plays right into the bosses hand of underpaying those with poorer negotiating skills but may actually work much harder than others, where is the social justice in that. That old school mentality is as bad as seniority for the sake of it. Since when is "I've been here longer than you" and even though I'm lazy and useless "I deserve the promotion more." been right. Salary should be known and if someone excels then make the bonus payment known to all as an incentive for hard work.

-M-
-M-

9. Salary. Oh yeah. That old 70's white guy rule that got started when people started asking for equal pay for equal work. Imagine, could that still be the case? #breakthatrule

jsargent
jsargent

@gamesb00k It's not naive. It's naive to think that everybody can handle your personal drama for you. While you can point-out discretely personal problems to your boss, the bottom line is that you have to show that you are handling it. How you handle it can have a positive or negative affect on your career. 

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