We’ve all heard the horror stories, where Jane shares something about her coworker Jim on Facebook and it gets back to him through a Friend of a Friend, causing embarrassment on both sides, if not worse.
Social media makes it so easy to share what’s on our minds without really thinking about it first.However, it’s important to keep in mind that there are important differences about the professional workplace—whether it’s a career or a job, on Main Street or Wall Street—that make workplace boundaries important for everyone to follow.
So what do those workplace boundaries consist of? Well, for starters, as illustrated in the Facebook example above, don’t talk about your coworkers, even in places where you think it won’t get back to them. Remember what your grandmother probably told you as a youngster: “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Silence is indeed golden; even if you don’t work directly with someone at your office, that could change with a new contract or restructuring, so your personal opinion about another person should remain personal.
Other things that you should not talk about at work (or in a situation where it could get back to your office) include:
- How much you make or what you spend it on – you don’t want to appear as if you’re bragging, or wanting to appear more important than your colleagues.
- Your religious and political views and stances – remember, far too many wars have been waged over these two issues, even if the comment might have seemed inconsequential at the time!
- Jokes that denigrate any group – it’s fine to laugh over a good joke, but before you share it, make sure that your joke will not be considered offensive by any of the hearers. And if you’re not sure, save it for your Facebook page.
- Details about your love and sex live – this should be obvious, but think about it this way: do you really want to know the same things about your boss or coworkers?
- Medical information – it’s one thing to mention that your son Johnny skinned his knee on the baseball diamond this weekend, and something else entirely to comment that you know the medical reason why one of your coworkers is out of the office for two weeks. Talking about your medical issues, or those of a colleague, is not appropriate and, in some cases, can even violate HIPPA laws.
- What you do when you’re not at work—especially if it involves alcohol or drugs – the workplace is not the right place to talk about your weekend escapades; the goal of a professional work environment is to appear professional.
- When you’re looking for another place to work – regardless of your reasons, talking about moving on does nothing to help you at your old place of work, and certainly could make matters worse if your boss finds out.
Interested in more tips to improve the professional side of your life? Check out the Career Advice section of our blog.
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