9 secrets you should keep to yourself at work

  • Rose Kennedy
  • For the AJC
11:16 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017 Things to Do in Atlanta

While the Harvey Weinstein scandal (among others) may usher in the healthy policy of bringing workplace harassment into the public eye, other workplace situations are better kept secret.

Even if you work in a place that feels safe, with colleagues who are friends and an "all in it together" workplace vibe, you shouldn't share certain personal information, noted management and organization development consultant Susan Heathfield in The Balance.

Revealing secrets to co-workers, your boss or HR may cloud the workplace opinion about you as a person, she said. "These conclusions can adversely affect your career and opportunities. The employer making decisions may never recognize that he or she is making decisions about you based on what is known about your personal life."

You despise your boss or another colleague. Don't broadcast your dislike to the entire company, advised the CBS News Moneywatch blog. If you do, you risk coming across as unprofessional and disrespectful. And open hostility makes for an awkward work environment for everyone. This demoralizing behavior on your part will be remembered when it comes time for new work opportunities and performance reviews.

You have committed a crime in the past. No one really needs to know about your night in jail for public intoxication or any other misdemeanor, noted Moneywatch. Not only will it color their view of you in a way that might carry over into their opinion of your work, such stories tend to grow in the retelling. Even a minor skirmish might have morphed into a felony complete with car chase by the time it gets back to your boss (and it will).

You and a co-worker are hooking up

Almost all companies have a policy against certain dating relationships, so if you're breaking one and don't intend to stop, don't further complicate the issue by telling other people at the office about your poor judgment, says Moneywatch. Revealing details about your personal life is unprofessional and if the romance goes south, you'll have the added stress of your co-workers looking on.

You have big, fat future plans. If you've got a business plan, something that could change your life, don't yield to the temptation to brag or bond by talking about your aspirations, advised GreatLifeZone.com. "Keep silent about these until you've actually put them in action and the results have started pouring in," it advised. That strategy keeps you from getting demoralized by casual naysayers and safeguards you from more aggressive or resourceful colleagues picking up your idea and implementing it better and faster than you.

You're doing something illegal, even if it's outside of work. Heathfield focused on secrets you should never tell HR, but the same idea applies to colleagues who might slip up and tell your story to HR. In either case, you don't want to be the one who upsets the apple cart with talk of your own illegal enterprises, whether you are growing pot in the basement or playing a friendly cash game of Texas Hold 'em. "HR doesn't want to make a decision about whether he or she is legally obligated to report you to the police," noted Heathfield. "The fact that you caused the problem is not going to ring their happy chimes. It will deeply affect their opinion of you and your place in your organization."

You think you might want to become a full-time mom while you are on your FMLA maternity leave. HR and other company members tend to make decisions deemed in the best interest of their employer, noted Heathfield. You shouldn't be the one giving them the information that might result in decisions adverse to you.

You are moonlighting if your current job is full time. When word gets out at the primary company that you have taken on a second job, you communicate all sorts of messages about commitment and finances that you may not mean, Heathfield said. "Plus, they will blame any failings you exhibit such as missing work, arriving late, being unavailable for a meeting and so forth, on your second job."

Your personal life is a shambles. Personal life events, like filing a lawsuit against your neighbor or not speaking to your sister in five years, don't belong at work because they consciously or unconsciously cloud the workplace opinion about you as a person.

"I hate this job." You don't want to let this secret out, ever, according to Forbes' Travis Bradberry. While co-workers may seem receptive at the time, the last thing anyone wants to hear at work is someone complaining. "Doing so labels you as a negative person and brings down the morale of the group," he noted. "Bosses are quick to catch on to naysayers who drag down morale, and they know that there are always enthusiastic replacements waiting just around the corner.”

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