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  • Writer's pictureAustin Aloysius Tay

Conversations in Public – Are people listening to what you are saying?

Updated: Oct 20

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As someone who works for myself, the wonderful thing about my work is that I can work anywhere. A café with free Wi-Fi and PowerPoint to ensure that my laptop has constant power is important.

I like to think that I thrive, think and work better in a café. Perhaps the aroma of freshly brewed coffee or the atmosphere encourages the brewing ideas to percolate.

Observing other patrons  (mostly working executives) in the café is also a good excuse. In most of these cafés, seats are limited. Thus, tables are usually very close.  I usually work with my earphones stuck firmly in my ears to ensure I do not get distracted. But sometimes, I do get to hear people’s conversations.

What I find most intriguing is how people discuss work while having a cuppa. Issues discussed include complaints against other colleagues, bosses, peers and the organisation itself. I often wonder, why people are open in public when discussing sensitive issues.  For example, I once overheard a line manager talking to his subordinate about how to work with others.

I can appreciate that sometimes it is not ideal to discuss sensitive issues in the office for various reasons, such as limited space, but imagine the consequences should all these discussions be overheard or recorded.

The fact that people need to discuss these issues might suggest a few things:

  1. The culture of the organisation they work for – their comfort level to discuss such issues openly.

  2. The long-term impact of those issues is a) to the organisation and b) to the employees working there.

  3. What steps and procedures are in place to deal with those issues to minimise the effect and impact?

  4. People’s perception of confidentiality – in the course of sharing,  people might inadvertently divulge information that might be sensitive or confidential.

While I cannot suggest a bulletproof solution, I will suggest that the next time you decide to have those sensitive discussions in a café, just be mindful of your surroundings.

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