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.

By Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic, The New Stack, and Linux New Media. He's covered a variety of topics for over twenty years and is an avid promoter of open source. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen....