Town Talk Features

The Velvet Hammer: 12.11.19

I overhead a conversation of a top executive at our firm that included information that seriously affects a colleague who is also a friend. Do you think I should share it or keep it to myself?

Without knowing exactly what you overheard—and if you indeed heard it correctly or heard all that was being discussed—my sense is that you should keep this information to yourself. How you deal with confidential information comes down to trust, no matter how you come across it. It can make or break your personal credibility, impact your standing at the firm and, possibly, your reputation in the broader community. If this is information you shouldn’t know, you shouldn’t disseminate it.

That said, if you feel compelled to discuss it, talk with someone you trust, like your family attorney or someone outside the organization. Be aware that the information you heard also could be wrong and divulging this kind of information could put you in the center of drama and, again, possibly jeopardize your standing both at work and in the community.

Another word of caution: People don’t often thank you for bad news, and should your friend/colleague make a decision based on your hearsay, he may hold you responsible. My best advice: Keep this information to yourself.

Happy holidays to all and some festive advice …

Although no one has asked The Velvet Hammer, I would like to offer some suggested do’s and don’ts for this year’s holiday office party:  

  • Do dress appropriately. (In fact, ask in advance about dress attire.)
  • Don’t arrive too early or stay too late.
  • Do make a point to speak with somebody new.
  • Don’t overindulge. (Keep drinking to a minimum, especially with the boss and colleagues.)
  • Do talk about something besides work.
  • Don’t forget to thank your host.
  • Do have fun.

Bottom Line: Remember that it’s a celebration—eat, drink and be classy! 

Joan Lee Berkman is a marketing and public relations consultant. if you have a question for Joan, email it to