You’ve probably heard the saying: En boca cerrada, no entran moscas. (Translation: Flies don’t enter a closed mouth.)
In other words, if you keep your mouth shut, you’re less likely to get into trouble. This is so true in business and work.
While we want to be friendly and congenial at work and with colleagues, there are a few topics that might be best left at home.
Please don’t misunderstand: You want to have work connections; you want to grow your network; you need to build friendships with people you can trust. But be careful.
Over-sharing at work or with business colleagues can be professionally deadly. Do you want everyone to know what you said? How would you feel if it gets back to your boss? Consider these questions before embarking on any of the following topics:
Criticism of your boss, of your company and/or your department. While lamenting the last bad business decisions might seem like a fun way to blow off steam, if you’re not careful, you can make yourself look very bad.
You may fail to look like a team player, and if you’re so quick to judge your own team, what are you saying about others? You also may appear overly critical, judgmental or snobbish. You could also be considered untrustworthy or gossipy.
Further, if a colleague could use your words to drive a wedge between you and a superior – and possibly raise his or her own position at the same time – do you want to provide that ammunition? Think first before sharing your own criticisms.
Discussing personal issues. Sometimes it feels safe to share your relationship concerns, parenting troubles or other outside issues with colleagues. And at times there are personal things that you need to share, at least with some people, because they unavoidably get in the way of you focusing on your job.
But do you really want such information shared with others who might misinterpret your position? And do your colleagues really need to know the intimate details of your personal life? Share the basics if necessary, but leave the details for trusted friends.
Your plans to leave the company. Be very careful who you tell that you’re interviewing at another company, even your closest friends at work. Until you’re ready to give your notice, that kind of information can potentially be damaging to your career.
Unless you’re deliberately using the potential move as leverage – and are willing to accept the consequences if you don’t get another job offer – be careful who you tell at work.
Your personal plans, such as having surgery, having a baby, taking care of relatives or taking a long vacation. While you do eventually have to share this information, you want to be in control of where and how you do it. You don’t want a mistimed disclosure to keep you from a plum assignment or from being able to ask for the kind of flexibility you need.
In short: We all need to build good connections, but be wary. What you say to Alejandro today might be on the tongue of Laura tomorrow.
Be honest, be friendly, and don’t be so close-mouthed that you seem suspicious. Just know that you can share plenty about your life without putting yourself at risk. Be aware of the consequences of revealing certain kinds of info and make the decision wisely and when relevant.
Aurelia Flores is Senior Counsel at a Fortune 500 company and former Fulbright Fellow who graduated from Stanford Law School. Her website, PowerfulLatinas.com, offers stories of success, along with resources and programs focused on Latino empowerment.