b Self-Helpless: True Tales of a Working Girl: Watch What You Say at Work

1/27/2007

 

Watch What You Say at Work

Often it’s too late when you find out some uncomfortable truths about the people you work with. Just in case you feel the urge to blab, make sure you’re willing to walk out the door. People love gossip but hate a tattletale. This means the wrong people are on the hook.

It may be outlined in the corporate philosophy that honesty is the best policy, and an honor system is in place, but most employers pay this lip service. When a situation actually confronts them, they flail and look for someone to point a finger at (especially if it helps them to feel better about themselves).

There tends to be safety in numbers but good luck trying to get others to join in going up against a boss or coworker. They may put up a tough front all along, but in the face of human resources and managerial scrutiny they turn to mealy-mouthed mush. Don’t be goaded into acting on someone else’s behalf unless you want to be hoisted with their petard as well.

1. Making More Money than the Other Guy.

If you know Emery is making more money than Selma, even though Selma has been with the company for more time and has more education, keep quiet. Besides, many companies have confidentiality clauses in regards to salary disclosure. This can have some serious repercussions if you get caught in the middle. Of course there are those that may throw blame anyway (even if it’s completely unwarranted because that’s just how some people are). The point is, if you're guilty you run the risk of being found out and fired.

2. History of Sexual Harassment/Drug Use.

Technically, drug use is a confidential issue. Ms.Workerwitnesseseverything emailed me a story about how she was working in an office where one employee’s drug screen came back positive for cocaine. Within seconds everyone knew. What's worse was the guy could tell that the word was out. I’m guessing he wished the earth would open and swallow him whole. (This is just another reminder about how careful you need to be when it comes to disclosing anything about your personal life. Do what I used to do: lie [of course I dated a coworker which is why I lied]. The people that were my true friends knew where it was at, anyone else, I could have cared less. Being a writer has its advantages – it allowed for some creativity in my day. Besides, people will make up details as they want anyway. They need to get a life!)

3. Inappropriate Rewards or Expense Account Approval

Don’t let the “informal nature” of chatting with coworkers fool you. If they ask about what kinds of spending your department is doing on advertising or how big the expense account statements were for March, be tactful. Most companies have people who exploit their expense account by entertaining new business clients to the limit. They always leverage knowledge of another employee’s approvals against the boss and the accounting department. Don’t give away this ammunition or you will be costing the company money. Guess what happens when this news gets out?

Just some things to think about.

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