Most workplaces have come a long way from their staid, awkwardly formal former days. Some companies are extending Casual Fridays to the rest of the work week. Others are giving their employees more leeway than ever to work remotely and with flexible hours. And if you’re really lucky, you might even get to clock in to a dog-friendly office. Seriously, what a time to be alive.
While the tone at some companies seems to have calmed way down in recent years, there remains an uneasiness for many of us about what kind of information is appropriate to share with employers and colleagues. If, in 2018, jeans are acceptable on a Tuesday, is it also okay to talk openly about personal matters with the people who sign our paychecks? These subjects were once considered taboo, of course, but should they still be kept quiet?
SimplyHired recently surveyed 1,000 American employees about the state of candor in the modern workplace. While the percentage of people who admit to actively keeping secrets from their employers is pretty low — just eight percent, for example, say they’ve hidden a pregnancy, while a third have lied about a doctor’s appointment — there remains a gray area for many of us about what is and isn’t up for discussion when we cross the office threshold.
To help eliminate this gray area once and for all, we turned to etiquette expert Sharon Schweitzer for her opinion on many of the issues covered in the SimplyHired survey. The key takeaway? Outside of your close friends, most of the people you work with really don’t need to know what’s happening in your personal life. Keep scrolling for more of Schweitzer’s expertise.
keep it on the down low
- Doctor’s Appointments + Health Issues: “These are both on a need-to-know basis,” Schweitzer says. “Your co-workers don’t need to know the details of your health issues. However, communicating with HR and your supervisor about mental and physical health issues that impact your attendance, availability, or job performance as required by policy relieves the pressure to act as though everything is fine.” Basically, if you’re managing complicated health issues that are going to affect you on the job, it’s important that you let key players know so they can support and cover for you — but you’re under no obligation to tell every person you work with. If you’re stepping out for a routine doctor’s appointment, request a personal day and don’t go into the details.
- Tears: It’s one thing to pull your work BFF aside if you’re having a particularly emotional day and need a shoulder to cry on, but being more open about your feels with the larger population around the office is probably not such a good idea. Among the women who participated in the SimplyHired study, 52 percent cop to hiding tears from their coworkers at some point. If you’re feeling weepy, consider taking a walk around the block to collect yourself instead of asking your boss for a tissue.
- Politics: Have we learned nothing from the highly charged political climate of the last year? While discussions about current events play an important role in holding us accountable for the important things happening in the world around us, they aren’t exactly appropriate for the office. Political chatter might be a customary part of water cooler culture around your workplace — according to SimplyHired, just 26 percent of people actively keep their political votes secret from employers (and interestingly, a higher concentration of Democrats) — but Schweitzer suggests that you proceed with caution on this subject.
- Side Hustles + Part-Time Gigs: Working a part-time job may be a violation of company policy, and even if your awesome new side hustle doesn’t technically interfere with your day-to-day tasks, sharing about it too much might raise eyebrows about your commitment to your employer. Unless you know for a fact that you risk getting fired by not sharing updates about a secondary job with the boss, it’s best to play these matters close to the chest.
- Religion: According to Schweitzer, unless your workplace considers religion a BFOQ — a bona fide occupational qualification, or an attribute that employers are legally allowed to consider as part of the hiring process — there’s no need to disclose information about your convictions to anyone except your office pals.
sharing might actually be caring
- Social Media: There is a range of opinions on this one, but Schweitzer doesn’t see any problem with sharing your social media handles with people in the workplace — including your boss — as long as you keep things relatively professional. Nervous about this one? Schweitzer recommends creating alternate accounts for Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or Snapchat. You can also use certain platforms more openly than others. With either of these plans, you can gracefully accept your supervisor’s friend request without worrying they’ll be too up in your business, because you can share your personal life more freely elsewhere!
- An Interoffice Relationship: Check your company handbook to find out what’s allowed. If the policy states that you need to disclose your romance with that cutie in accounting, you shouldn’t keep your love a secret. Use discretion when talking about your relationship with people who don’t really need to know about it.
- Your Own Criminal History: Assuming you’ve been hired and there’s nothing written in the company policy about keeping mum on previous mischief, you should feel free to share (to the extent that you’re comfortable, at least).
- Concerns About Another Employee: Sometimes, secrets aren’t your own to tell… but if you find out about them and they’re the kinds of secrets that affect your company’s bigger picture, it’s your responsibility to let the boss know. Schweitzer notes that you should tell your boss if you find out that a coworker is stealing company property, abusing an expense account, or lying about their family circumstances for insurance purposes (yes, apparently, this is something people do). Be a hero and tell the truth.
Do any of these etiquette expert-approved dos and don’ts surprise you? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(Photo via Getty)