Loose Lips Sink Ships

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Peter Gerritsen
Peter Gerritsen



We are in the business of sharing ideas. Open communication. Creating dialogue. But there is a time and a place to speak your mind or discuss confidential information.

I was on the Boston T (the mass transit system serving the Boston area) the other day. I prefer the T instead of driving into the city for meetings. No hassles with driving and ridiculous parking fees. I can respond to emails and listen to music for the 25 minute trip. Or, I can eavesdrop on the conversations among the other passengers nearby. On this recent trip, I was seated just in front of three T workers. I think they were "drivers-in-training" since they were discussing classes on learning the systems and how to handle the signals along the routes. My passing interest started when one of the guys quizzed another on the names of stops along the Green Line we were traveling. He missed three. It surprised me, since even I know them as an occasional rider. So I listened a little more intently.

Their conversation meandered into opinions of the T staff and senior drivers. They talked about faking time cards, calling in sick and requesting non-existent holidays. Teachers were showing them how to skirt around the system as much as learning the rules. I had mixed emotions about what I was hearing. Every business has similar employees that look for ways to circumvent the rules. But here were guys talking in public about how senior drivers are taking advantage of our publicly-funded transportation system. One that is struggling to survive. One that is currently seeking to raise fares and cut services to rein in costs. And here were employees talking about how they essentially cost all of us more in some way. How true was any of it? I have no idea.

Should I have raised a stink? Maybe tried to record the conversation to bring to their superiors? Called the investigative journals in town? Maybe. Bottom line was what I heard was probably hearsay in official terms. And I doubt I could point all of them out in a line-up if necessary.

This passing conversation I happened to hear did make me think about how we need to remind our people that we must always be aware of what we say, where we say it and to whom we are speaking.

A few rules to make sure are adhered to by everyone (including ourselves):

  • Never talk about a client, their business or issues about them in a public place. This includes lobbies, elevators, hallways and trains.
  • Never speak to a client on your mobile while meeting with another. If necessary, excuse yourself to a private spot.
  • No bashing clients, even in front of your own staff. As much as some people in our business consider this a semi-pro sport, it just isn't smart.
  • Even social events with clients are not implied permission to "share" beyond what is professional.
  • What is considered confidential is CONFIDENTIAL.
  • What is not confidential is confidential, even if not expressly stated as such.
  • When the agency has an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement), it applies to everyone working in the agency. Take a moment to remind everyone of their responsibility to your clients and your business.
  • Don't share business info on your Facebook, Twitter or any other social escapism resource, just between your friends. Because it is never just between friends.

Remember the old saying, "Loose lips sink ships" that originated before just about all of us were born? Well, it is as true today as ever before. Maybe even more so. All the technological advancements that surround us make all the easier to capture information that can be used by the enemy. In business, the enemy can be any number of companies that would love to know what we know.

I also remember the other old saying that my parents and grandparents drummed into me at a young age: "If you don't have something good to say about someone, don't say anything at all."

How about we all just take a moment before we open up and spout whatever comes into our heads? The quiet will make it much easier to think.

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