Keep Personal Info Personal
Discrimination in the workplace is illegal. It’s also despicable and certainly not anything we condone. In an ideal world, the details of our personal lives wouldn’t matter nearly as much as our performance and productivity on the job. But the cold, hard truth is employers may still make decisions based upon details of an employee’s life.
From judging workers based on Facebook photos to thinking twice about promoting someone with kids or a chronic illness when another employee is free of those obligations or difficulties, there are kinds of potential pitfalls. By revealing some private information to your boss, you could set yourself back when it comes to a raise or promotion.
Obviously every workplace is different and bosses will vary. If you have an understanding manager who sees the value in knowing employees on a personal level, this article probably won’t apply to you. But if you’re not that lucky, you may wish to keep the following details about your life private if you want to maximize your success.
10. Night Life
Whether you’re reading bedtime stories to your kids or hitting the bars every night, your boss shouldn’t know anything about your night life unless it includes taking classes in your field or doing extra work from home or your favorite cafe.
If you can’t complete an after-hours work task due to a hot date or helping kids with homework, it’s best to simply indicate that you have other obligations at home. Keep the personal drama at home.
9. Religious Beliefs
It’s against the law to discriminate against religious beliefs, but talking about religion too often at work is inappropriate (unless you work for a religious organization).
If your job duties entail something that violates a religious belief, you should speak up. You do not necessarily need to be specific with your boss; you can simply indicate that the task at hand violates one of your beliefs. If possible, present an alternative or workaround.
We’re all entitled to our personal religious beliefs, but remember not everyone is religious and a workplace is not a church. It’s all about common sense. A Bible quote on your cubicle is no big deal, but proselytizing and trying to convert your coworkers is going to ruffle a few feathers and could potentially put your job security on shaky ground.
8. Political Affiliation
The quickest way to alienate people in a mixed crowd is to talk about politics.
Your political affiliation should remain private information. For a myriad of reasons. First of all, you risk offending coworkers and your boss while creating an uncomfortable work environment. But more important, once a boss knows about your affiliation, you could be judged as too open or closed-minded for a particular job. Even if your boss treats you equally, political prejudices still exist and could easily work against you.
7. Spouse’s Income
You might be wondering why this is on the list, but trust us — your boss shouldn’t know about your spouse’s income.
If your spouse is CEO of a successful company and a coworker vying for a job has an unemployed spouse your boss is aware of, you could lose out on a promotion even though you’re equally qualified because it may seem as though you don’t “need” the promotion. Even if your boss isn’t conscious of that information playing a part in his/her decision, you don’t want to take any chances where your career is concerned.
6. You’re Working Another Job
Many people work second jobs, including freelance positions. But your other business should stay your business.
Companies often develop and expand non-competition agreements and policies instructing employees to retain only one job. As your company could implement such a policy at any time, you should avoid telling your boss about other work obligations so you can continue to fly under the radar and make ends meet.
Not to mention, if you have an annual review with your boss and he/she cites a decrease in your performance, your boss could easily point the finger at the time and energy you’re spending working at the second job. Don’t give anyone any excuses to question your work ethic.
5. Sexual Orientation
Unless your sexual orientation is directly related to your job, there’s no reason to disclose your sexual orientation to your boss.
Don’t mistake this as advice to not be yourself or be ashamed of who you are. Far from it. But the harsh truth is that although discrimination is illegal, it still occurs. And in certain industries, stereotypes still work against individuals based on sexual orientation. Who you date or decide to marry is your business, and it would be a shame if a prejudiced boss used that personal information against you when considering a raise or promotion.
4. Your Living Situation
No one at work needs to know about your living situation, whether you’re at home with your parents or struggling to make your mortgage payment.
This is another aspect of your life that could cause others to judge you or create or a problem for you where your boss is concerned. It can also reveal other details of your life, opening the possibility of sexual orientation discrimination and ageism.
3. Mental Health Issues
Going through a divorce or breakup, suffering from depression, or having thoughts of suicide? These are events that can occur in the course of an individual’s life that can be very traumatizing. Add in the stress caused by your day job, and it can feel a bit overwhelming. While it might be permissible for some employees to call in for a “mental health day,” keep your specific issues under wraps.
Got a meeting with a therapist and have to leave work early? Make sure to vaguely identify that as an appointment with the doctor. If you’re having trouble coping during the workday, it’s better to step out and deal with your issue than it is to have a breakdown in front of your boss. Don’t allow your boss the opportunity to interpret a mental illness as your inability to perform your job duties. And if you are unable to work because of a potential mental illness, please get the proper help immediately.
2. (Some) Physical Health Problems
If you require ergonomic desk enhancements, your employer is legally required to provide them. Big events like surgeries and childbirth are obvious and unavoidable when it comes to revealing information to your employer.
Long-term issues like chronic illnesses can interfere with the opinion your boss holds of you. Unless your safety is at risk or you need to take a medical leave, health issues should remain a private concern.
1. Anything Your Boss Hasn’t Told You
Information is valuable and can also indicate a level of informality or comfortability. If you know it about your boss, it might be a bit safer to reveal the same thing. For instance, if your boss has a family photo on his or her desk including kids, it might be a bit safer for you to take off for that PTA conference without being judged.
Your boss only knows information you choose to share. If you don’t want your boss to know certain information, make sure to mark it as private on all social networking profiles and limit what your coworkers know about you as well.