To Keep Out of Trouble, Separate Your Business and Personal Lives

Career and Life Matrix - Arrow and Target

Several of our good friends are clients of many years. So the following advice may seem counter to our own rule of separating your business and personal lives.

One of the reasons our relationships are long lasting is because we never spread gossip about other clients or say negative things about them. In our leisure time, we keep the conversations social. So should you.

The Bitchy Boss

Take, for example, the true story of Sally, who was the boss and mentor to a young woman who she brought with her to three different companies over many years. Sally was invited to her protégé’s bridal shower. Imagine her shock when the bride-to-be’s mother began introducing her to other guests as her daughter’s “bitchy boss.”

Sally told her husband, Mike, about this unpleasant experience and he planned to verbally annihilate the mother when he met her on the receiving line. Ironically, the mother told Mike that she had heard nothing but lovely things about his wife. Mike never got the chance to tell off the mother, which was a good thing as the wedding was not the time to get even.

You need to be very careful when you socialize with people you work with and invite them to family gatherings. You may love your boss but no relationship is perfect. Who are you going to complain to except your family?

The mother who introduced her daughter’s boss while bad mouthing her may have been kidding. But Sally didn’t think it was funny and why would she? Your family members may not know that there are boundaries.

It’s important to gain the commitment of your friends and family not to repeat anything you tell them about your work situation. You can’t assume that even if they mask a person’s name that it won’t be obvious whom they’re talking about.

Mum’s the Word

Another example is when a friend’s therapist was guilty of discussing another patient.front view of businessman's hand closing mouth

The therapist talked about a patient she had who had “slept her way to the top.” It was totally obvious to the patient who she was describing. It was a woman she happened to know. This did not bode well for a trusting relationship between my friend and her therapist. Our friend actually found a new therapist.

If your boss or client invites you and your spouse to dinner, coach your spouse about what topics are off limits. Avoid telling off-color jokes and never start a conversation about politics. Let the host set the tone and follow his lead on the subjects he wants to discuss.

If the host invites his spouse, go online and do some research. If you learn she plays golf and you both do, too, that’s a pleasant, non-threatening conversation that you can initiate.

On the other hand, tread very gingerly if the spouse has been in the news because he’s under SEC investigation for a securities violation.

Don’t Share Secrets

Under no circumstances share any company secrets with friends or family. You may commit them to secrecy, but what you tell them may be just too juicy not to discuss with a close friend, who tells his close friend, and so on.

Before you know it, another friend is calling you to confirm the story.

Discussing company business on your social media accounts is another no-no, as everything you say can go viral. Once that genie is out of the bottle you can’t put it back. It’s out there for everyone to see.

Beware of sharing intimate personal details online, too. In the age of the Internet, you can’t have any expectation of privacy. Be careful about everything you say or do because it may reflect poorly on you personally or be perceived as disparaging of your company.

You don’t want to find yourself out on the street and out of a job. Let us know if you have had similar experiences.

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