Boundaries – Not Walls

Once upon a time, the lines around public and private were clear. Certain things, personal issues, weren’t discussed or disclosed in a public, much less a business setting. Modern technology has blurred those lines and the respect for boundaries is eroding. 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.  


Once, while meeting with a client, she closed the door to her office behind us. No sooner had we sat down when there was a knock on the door and it immediately burst open.  The individual didn't wait to be invited in or be greeted by my host.  He started talking with no regard or respect for my client’s 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.  


In the lobby of another client’s building, I observed and heard an employee talking on her cell phone, having what sounded like a personal call.  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.


In another public setting 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.  I’ve overhead confidential business conversations taking place in airports – information being shared that should not be disclosed in public.  Private conversations should not be held in public!  


Organizations should take heed of this trend. These types of situations can have detrimental effects on organizations. When boundaries are not clearly defined or are violated, the result could be an unhealthy working environment with poor performance, reduced morale and motivation, workplace bullying, harassment and legal liability.


Business leaders should reinforce this behavior and lead by example. Insist on professional courtesy in the workplace – behavior that cultivates mutual respect and consideration for others. To paraphrase a poster I once saw on public transportation:  “Not everyone cares what you’re having for dinner!”

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