You know folks; more people shoot themselves in the foot, get fired or destroy the most promising of careers by forgetting to put their brains into gear before opening their big fat mouths than by any other way. And that includes communication of any form: face-to-face, telephone, email, text and any other form of communication you can think of. Yours truly is not immune from the above either.
Those who you would have thought should know better like executives and business leaders, are especially adept at falling into this trap, by documenting stuff they should not even be thinking about, let alone doing. I am not sure why but I have read enough to know that the above scenario always seem to turn up in civil court cases, criminal investigations and Parliamentary Select Committee hearings.
Recent examples from across the Pond are classics. So:-
In 2011 a well-known Vice-President of a large Computer Corporation, reportedly shared previously unreleased details of his Company’s Cloud Computing strategy on his LinkedIn Profile, tipping off competitors to confidential information that should have remained just that – Confidential. The VP, who had spent his entire career at the Company, now works elsewhere. Not too surprising.
In the largest insider trading scandal in history, a former Managing Director, a CEO and an IBM Vice President, revealed confidential insider information to Billionaire Hedge-Fund Manager Raj Rajaratnam of Galleon. It didn’t end well for any of them.
Yes, there is a broad spectrum of things one should never say at work, from pushing the limits of sexual harassment, racism, homophobia to risking getting convicted for securities fraud. And the way things are these days, almost anything one says will offend someone by crossing some invisible boundary of Political Correctness. Please God, Heavenly Father, please spare me and deliver me from that which is called ‘Political Correctness’. Been there and have had some very dubious experiences of PC gone mad.
They said, if one likes what they do for a living then you don’t want to end up pounding the pavement looking for work (a way of life for Yours Truly, I might add). Below are nine things one should never say at work (or anywhere else for that matter,) because if you do, you are just asking for a whole lot of trouble (especially where PC reigns supreme)….
- “I probably shouldn’t be telling you this but….”
What follows is never good and almost never legal but confidential. If you shouldn’t be saying it, then don’t. Shut up.
- “Do you really think we are violating their intellectual property?
Unless it is in a documented lawyer-client privileged communiqué, don’t even think about saying anything like that or even close.
- “I think the boss is an asshole (or something a lot worse).
Don’t even say it in confidence. Next thing you know, your confidante is telling somebody else and before you know what has happened, it is going around the office about what you think of the boss. Even worse if the boss gets to hear what you think of them.
- “Did you lose weight?”
Even I have fallen into this one with my big mouth. This implies (and it is nearly always a woman this question is directed at,) that she was previously fat or worse she was pregnant when she wasn’t. Personally I think it is fine to compliment somebody but in our PC-riddled work environments, a compliment or comment like that can be taken as an insult. Sensitivity reigns supreme, and if you are working temporary on a zero-hours contract, you won’t last long.
- “What was your pay rise?
One of the first things I Iearned on entering the world of work aged sixteen, was you never ever ask anyone about their salary/pay. In fact, you will be a whole lot better off not discussing money at all. If you do the opposite you will end up annoying someone or make yourself feel annoyed and put out.
- “Man, we really took that customer for a ride, didn’t we?”
Comment like this means you are in a job where you need to produce results – especially if you are being paid solely on commission (see ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’). Don’t get me wrong here, there are good, professional people working solely on commission who are ethical and play by the rules because they are exceptional sales people. However, you never want to go on record saying anything that might be self-incriminating.
- “Who did you vote for?”
Never, ever, talk politics. If you are the supporter of liberal/left-wing politics, and your boss or the crawler working next to you follows the boss’ lead in being a right-wing Thatcherite (they actually still exist,) you are better off, much better off, keeping your opinions to yourself. No-one wants to work in a divided workplace.
- “What’s your religion?”
Personally, I have a good idea what a person’s religion is on first meeting them or by what they say. My experience of life here in the UK, is we are nominally a Christian Country as there are ties between Church and State. Most people in the work place would have a hard time maintaining any conversation on religious matters, as they don’t believe in anything nor have a religious viewpoint. That said, in a PC-ridden culture, don’t ever talk religion. Keep it strictly off limits.
9. “You wouldn’t believe who I saw coming out of Daniel’s hotel room early this morning – in the outfit they wore to the last night’s Ball.”
I should be so lucky to have a female colleague or a professional acquaintance leaving my hotel room early one morning. I am making a point here. Don’t gossip. All I or my ‘partner in crime’ have to do is deny it. And guess what? You are branded a gossip and troublemaker in the process.
Summarizing the above, if you follow the five rules of communication below, you will stand an excellent chance of not putting your foot in it and not putting an end to what could be a promising career. So:-
- Don’t assume something you say in confidence will stay that way.
- Don’t get too social with Social Media.
- Don’t badmouth the boss except to their face, one-on-one.
- Don’t put your company, its business or production or its customers in a bad light that could end up becoming public. Think Gerald Ratner.
- Don’t say it and most definitely don’t put it in writing if you don’t want it plastered all over some home page online.