Personal Calls at Work? Ha!

i had to make a doctor’s appointment for an annual check-up and ask for a prescription refill yesterday afternoon. simple? not where i work.

for most people, that involves a quick phone call. for me, it entails furtive glances to my left and right, muttering in a muffled voice into the phone and general awkwardness.

you see, i work in an open-plan newsroom, where almost nobody has a private office, let alone the pseudo-privacy of cubicle walls. i sit about three feet from my editor and there are six additional employees within a five-foot radius. add to that another five or six people who are still within earshot when i speak with an “inside voice.”

now you can understand why scheduling certain kinds of appointments and otherwise doing anything personal is, well, not at all personal.

and it works both ways: whether they want me to or not, i know when a fellow reporter has big dinner plans, when my editor’s son is sick, when a colleague is fighting with their cable company.

don’t get me wrong, i’m perfectly fine sharing some personal information with my coworkers. they know the basics about my family and my background, and hear funny anecdotes from the weekend. but not everyone needs to know everything. and likely, they don’t want to.

sometimes the close proximity of neighbors pays off. i’ll pick up snippets of a phone conversation from another reporter, recognize that i have a source that could help with what they’re working on, and pass along the information. or i can turn 90 degrees and ask my editor a quick question.

but more often than not, it’s a burden rather than a blessing.

readers, how do you handle personal calls at work? what personal topics should be off-limits for conversations in the workplace?


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