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Things to keep from (or share with) your employer

Employers waiting on employee to speak

In a perfect world, sharing the details of our lives outside of work with our employers shouldn’t matter nearly as much as our job performance. Unfortunately, bosses have been known to make decisions based on an employee’s personal life. From checking an employee’s Facebook profile to deciding not to hire a chronically ill yet highly qualified applicant, discrimination in the workplace is illegal but still relatively common. 

Here are some examples of things that you might want to think twice about sharing with your employer: 

“I have a second job.” 

While many people see working more than one job as a financial necessity, employers often disagree with that viewpoint. If you work part-time or freelance in addition to holding down your full-time day job, your other business should remain just that – your business. Before you disclose a second job, you should check your company’s policy to determine how much you should say. 

Some companies forbid outside employment entirely and have non-competition agreements and policies in place to keep employees from working a second job. Others allow moonlighting, as long as workers ask permission to do so. If you tell your boss about other employment obligations even though you’re not required to, your company could use this information against you. For example, your boss could use it to justify turning down your request for a raise, citing a decrease in performance due to the time you’re spending at your other job. Never give an employer an excuse to call your work ethic into question. 

“I’m in law school. 

According to the Estrin Report, there are two kinds of paralegals: the career type and the transitional type. The career paralegal went into the job knowing that they were signing up for life, while a transitional paralegal uses their job to position themselves for another career, often as attorneys. Transitional paralegals decide to go to law school for a variety of reasons – to qualify for a more challenging job, to increase their income, or maybe they think a law degree will make them more marketable.  

But regardless of the reason, they have chosen to continue their education, all paralegals attending law school face a common dilemma: whether or not to tell their boss that they are in law school. If you think you have an employer who will support your educational pursuits, you might consider coming clean with them, but only after thoroughly researching your firm’s attitude toward others who have made similar moves in the past.  

Otherwise, there are some very valid reasons for keeping such information to yourself, since what you do on your own time is your own business, as long as you get your work done. If you are looking for your first paralegal job, telling a potential employer that you are attending law school is like telling them that despite all the time and money they will spend on recruitment and training should they hire you, you won’t be there for the long haul. Similarly, a seasoned paralegal who decides to share this type of information with the boss could find future promotions very hard to come by, despite the increased knowledge they would be bringing to your job. 

“I have a serious health problem.” 

Some health issues need to be discussed with your boss. If you need ergonomic desk enhancements, your employer is legally required to provide them, or if you’re having surgery or giving birth, revealing this information is pretty much unavoidable.  

But if you’re suffering from depression, going through a divorce, or facing some other sort of trauma, it might be permissible to take a “mental health day” once in a while, but you should keep mum about your specific issues. If you need to leave work to keep an appointment with your therapist, try to identify it as a doctor’s appointment without elaborating.  

By keeping emotional issues to yourself, you won’t give your boss the chance to incorrectly interpret a mental health issue as your inability to perform the duties of your job. Long-term problems can lower the opinion your boss has of you, so unless you need to take short-term disability or time off under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you should keep health issues – particularly those involving your mental health – private. 

Do you know of other things you should (or shouldn’t) avoid telling your employer? Tell us about them in the comments! 

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One thought on “Things to keep from (or share with) your employer

  1. I found the information referenced above to be a good reminder concerning telling my boss anything about my personal life outside the job. This information is also a good reminder not to be telling my fellow workers my personal business on the job.

    There are many things co-workers do with your information that may not work to your benefit. They can gossip and twist what you said to the wrong people on the job who could use your information against you and cause you to even lose your job. I don’t disclose my personal business to anyone on the job. When someone asks me something that I believe to be out of bounds, I ask them why they want to know and what purpose does it serve or I will turn and ask them the same thing before giving any information if I choose to do so. Yes, I may lose a few friendly acquaintances on the job due to their being nosy, but my purpose is to be pleasant and do the best job I can while I’m working, which doesn’t include gossip.

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