Don’t worry. I’m not turning this into a political thing. Admittedly, not so long ago, I admired the guy. Anthony Weiner has always been outspoken and unafraid. I loved this video of him on the House floor fighting for compensation for the heroes and victims of 9/11. When we talk about finding your voice in the workplace, Weiner was definitely a role model.
And then…the photo. Oh, Mr. Weiner. You disappoint us so…
(Note: If you don’t live in North America and you haven’t been subjected to a really uncomfortable two weeks of news coverage known as “Weinergate,” a quick Google search will answer your questions.)
Here’s the thing: I truly believe that what people do privately—as long as it’s legal and doesn’t interfere with their ability to the job—is their business. I don’t want to know what happens in the bedroom of my politicians, my co-workers, or my employers.
But there are two things about this particular case that really get me. And these are the two things that take it from being a private matter to a public one. These are the two things that turn personal lapses of judgment into fire-able offenses (in my opinion). So let’s consider this a lesson for the workplace. No matter what you do in your time outside of the office, I ask you to keep in mind these two points.
Showing flagrant irresponsibility in your private life brings your judgment at work into question.
Even if your irresponsible actions are legal and they do not in any way impact your ability to do the job, they still make others lose confidence. People look at you and think, “If she’s that stupid in her private life, I wonder what she’s doing at work that I don’t know about…”
You see, Weiner didn’t just make one mistake with this Twitter photo. He did it over and over. He took stupid risks. That kind of brazen bad behavior makes you wonder if he’s taking stupid risks on the job as well. Maybe he’s not. Maybe he demonstrates impeccable judgment when he’s not on Twitter. But the trust that was once there is gone.
Keep this in mind in your own life. Even if your outside activities are completely separate from your work, how would they impact that trust? If people knew more about your private life, would they still have faith in your judgment? I’m not saying you have to walk around like a saint, but maybe think twice before dancing topless on the bar. These days, you never know what evidence may fall into the hands of your employer.
Do not use work resources for personal matters.
The other potential issue I have with this Weinergate story is that it appears the Congressman may (though he’s denying it right now) have used public resources to engage in this stuff. If he did indeed use his work computer or take those photos while conducting official business, it’s definitely a bigger issue. It’s one thing to have a messy personal life, but this would make it no longer personal.
Again, keep this in mind in your own life. Work is work. Don’t use work resources or work time for personal matters, questionable or not. This almost goes without saying but it happens time and time again. Don’t write emails to your boyfriend from your work computer. Don’t jump on Facebook from your work computer.
If you do, it’s no longer personal; it’s business. Perhaps you’re okay with that. But remember that one day, you might not be. Once you open that can of worms, it’s open. Separating the two parts of your life after they’ve been mixed up is like trying to pull the eggs out of the cake batter.
So let’s turn this whole messy affair into a positive learning experience. If you want to enjoy an irresponsible personal life, keep it far, far away from your business. Or, better yet, clean up your act. In most cases, it’s just not worth it.
Photo Credit: David Boyle (Flickr)