People talk. It’s unavoidable. I mean, that’s one of the bigger things that separates us humans from rest of the animal kingdom. The problem is being able to communicate our thoughts as quickly as they pop into our heads often leads to a variety of foot-in-mouth types of moments. In the corporate world, you’ll hear these referred to by the cute little acronym of CLMs (career limiting moves).
One of my favorite CLMs is what I like to call the water cooler misstep. This entails an individual (both newcomers and veterans fall victim to this) stumbling across a trusted colleague and speaking a little more freely about a boss-related gripe and touch more loudly than any person should in the office. Somehow word gets back to the person in question and all of a sudden you have situation where conflict is unavoidable.
True story: there was a project where one of my team members complained to the CLIENT about our manager. This client then blindsided the manager by relaying the complaint of the team member. It’s almost like this guy wanted to see some fireworks and just decided to see what would happen if he lit the fuse of the nearest loose cannon. It’s not like the client and manager were especially close but they talked enough where something like this had zero chance of being kept quiet.
If you’re not convinced, here are three more ways exercising your first amendment right can go wrong on your mission to quench your thirst:
- Manager or someone close to manager (possibly a brown noser) overhears you and all of a sudden you’re watching everyone pass you by when promotion time rolls around.
- You overestimate the nature of a relationship with a colleague, sharing opinions best reserved for your inner circle. This colleague is put off by your comments because he or she wonders how you speak of them when they’re not around. You find that distance between you and the colleague slowly increasing until you realize that you have one fewer “friend.”
- It may be the case the person you’re speaking to is a legitimate friend but your friend has a tendency to turn around secrets and rumors faster than The National Inquirer. Word gets back to the subject of those comments with you as the source and you’re in the same situation as in number one above. Screwed.
The moral of the story is to keep your mouth shut when considering criticizing your colleagues (especially in front of clients). There’s no upside and your career to lose. I hate to sound like a conspiracy theorist here but you never know who’s listening and where their allegiance lies.
Perhaps I can recommend a nice water bottle for you instead to avoid those impromptu water cooler chats?
What do you think? Paranoid or right on the mark? Let me know in the comments below.