Boundaries

Remember diaries? I recently listened to an "oldies" song, Neil Sedaka's The Diary -- about that little book with the lock and key. There is a story behind this hit.

Earlier, when Sedaka, a songwriter and performer, was collaborating with Howard Greenfield, they were working with singer Connie Francis on her hit "Stupid Cupid," Connie became distracted and began scribbling in her diary. Greenfield began teasing her about it, wanting to sneak a peek, but she refused. However, the idea for the next song emerged.

Let me clarify some facts about diaries for younger readers. It was a book where teenage girls wrote their most "private and intimate" thoughts, thoughts about their girlfriends (their BFFs) and thoughts about boys -- the ones they thought were cute, the ones they liked, and the ones who were good kissers. The book had a lock and key (often worn around a girl’s neck) to keep the diaries away from the eyes of others -- especially younger brothers. She would be mortified if someone read her diary and knew what she was thinking!

In these days of social media, lack of privacy and no boundaries, I'd love to ask Greenfield and Sedaka how they would write those lyrics today!

There is clearly a lack of respect for boundaries in modern life. Technology has blurred the lines between our personal and private lives. Over the past year, I've witnessed some very clear lack of boundaries in business settings, which were not only rude, but also could be detrimental to the business.

I had just entered a meeting with a client in her office. As I sat down, she closed the door to her office. As soon as she sat down, there was a knock on the door and it immediately burst open. The individual didn't wait to be invited in or much less be greeted by my host. There was no regard or respect for neither her privacy nor the business she was conducting. She could have been engaged in a discussion of a sensitive or proprietary conversation. The intruder didn't seem to care.

While waiting in the lobby of another client, an employee walked through talking on her cell phone. From her tone, it sounded like a personal call, but I could have been mistaken. As soon as she turned the corner I heard her scream an expletive, presumably into the phone. All I could think was, "What if I were a client of this firm. Would I think twice about my business relationship?" I only hope someone counseled her.

Over a pedicure in the salon I've been frequenting for years, I had to endure listening to a woman on her cell phone making multiple calls regarding her brother's estate. I learned more about this perfect stranger than I cared to know. Private conversations should not be held in public! If I were a casual customer, I might have considered not returning.

Boundaries and individual privacy are currently being chipped away in the modern world, not just on social media but in other forums and situations as well. Modern technology has been a contributing factor. Organizations should take heed of this trend, for it could lead to unsuspecting business and employee relations issues. I’ve overhead confidential business conversations taking place in airports – information that should not be disclosed in public. I’ve often counseled, especially in harassment training, that private conversations should not take place in public. Business leaders should reinforce this behavior and lead by example. To paraphrase a poster I once saw on public transportation: “Not everyone cares what you’re having for dinner!”


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