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home : columns : dear harriette January 25, 2020

11/7/2019 8:50:00 AM
Junior executive tired of loose-lipped colleagues

DEAR HARRIETTE: I realize that even when I say things to co-workers in confidence, they often tell other people. I suppose I should remember that from elementary school, but I am an adult, and in my professional life, I expect people to follow protocol.

If something is considered confidential and is clearly identified as such, it should be kept confidential. My company goes so far as to outline who gets to know things that are listed as confidential. I don't want to rat out my colleagues who have loose lips, but I do believe that what they are doing is reckless and totally against company rules. How should I handle this? I am a junior executive and do not want to risk my position in the company. -- Shut Your Mouth

DEAR SHUT YOUR MOUTH: Tread carefully so that you can fully assess the situation. Who do you believe is breaking confidentiality at work? How do you know? Have you directly witnessed a breach? Taking this seriously includes being completely clear that you are an eyewitness to something inappropriate.

Next, get a sense of who is releasing the information. If the perpetrators are company favorites, you may be stepping into political waters when and if you say anything. Do you have any allies at work? As you evaluate everything, figure out if you feel alone or if you will have support, if needed.

Finally, if you feel that the information being shared inappropriately will negatively impact your company, you should speak up. You may want to speak to your boss, if you feel aligned with him or her. Or you can go to human resources. If the content seems particularly volatile, you may want to talk to a lawyer first to figure out how to protect yourself, if you may be seen as a whistleblower when you speak up.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I think I contracted a sexually transmitted disease. I got involved with a guy at my school. It was my first time, but something is not right down there. I can't tell my mom because she would be so ashamed of me. I know it is 2019, but my family is conservative. I am afraid that if I go to the doctor at my school, she will call home and tell my mother. I need to do something because I am uncomfortable. What should I do? -- Feeling Sick

DEAR FEELING SICK: You should go to the doctor at your school. Assuming that you are 18, the medical department cannot legally share your health information with anyone, including your family. You can verify that with the medical center to alleviate your fears, but that is the law.

Go get checked out. Hopefully whatever infection you have can be easily treated. I will point out, though, that not every infection is curable. Now that you have become sexually active, learn how to protect yourself as best you can from infection. Your school physician should be able to go through the details of practicing safer sex as well as give you condoms.

Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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