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Wheelchair News, Issue #010 --Professionalism at Work
November 12, 2011

Private Conversations

Please and Thank You

Have you ever had someone pick up their cell phone or interrupt your conversation?

It happens all too much in the work setting. Manners and common courtesy need to be extended not only to our customers but also to those whom we work with. Violations of HIPPA can be as little as an overheard conversation between two professionals. Although unintended this does happen, and probably all too often.

Privacy Policy

How do we know when we are violating privacy policies? Knowing what we are doing and having a gentle reminder can sometimes be received in the wrong context. Would you want your private information to be known by others?

I, for one, do not. Is this something you can learn about in college? Or do you get it by good old fashioned work experience? Knowing what your company policy states is your responsibility as an employee, no matter what type of work you do.

Technology is great except when it is not used with care. Can you remember a time when you didn’t have a cell phone? Now we feel “lost” without it in our pockets or hands at all times. Maybe if we would put the phone down just for a day we would really be able to give 100% of our attention to whomever we are talking to.

Hey-What About Me!

How do you feel when you are working with someone or having a conversation with your doctor, and suddenly he/she pulls out their cell phone and looks at their screen? Did you just lose a little respect for that individual? Do you feel like you don’t matter? Would you just like to take it from their hands and toss it across the room? Would you like to say “What about me?”

Where is Private?

As a professional, there is a time and a place to use your cell phone or hold a conversation and the location for that is in PRIVATE. What does private mean? Where is private?

Private means: Not publicly known; not open; secret; as, a private negotiation; a private understanding

Belonging to, or concerning, an individual person, company, or interest; peculiar to one's self; unconnected with others; personal; one's own; not public; not general; separate

Confined to particular persons or groups or providing privacy; "a private place"; "private discussions"; "private lessons"; "a private club"; "a private secretary"; "private property”

Where is private? It is anywhere that the public is not, that means in an office, behind closed doors, in a private room, away from others, not in the hallway or the local water fountain.

Time for a Skit

Maybe a role reversal would be a good way to get the message to our co-workers. A skit that puts the you in the position of knowledge and the need to consult another co-worker in front of you might get the point across. You are now the “patient” and your life story has just become public knowledge to the other professional that is in the room.

Meanwhile that individual is working with another “patient” who likes to ask questions and may be snoopy. They ask you what happened. If you want to share your story you can, however, you are under no obligation to. The consulting information has just “exposed” who you are and what is “wrong with you”.

Information Highway

Let’s discuss what just happened. Although well intended, information was shared with another person while there were “eyes and ears” that can spread that information.

Why, because it just became public knowledge without the consent of the “beneficiary”. Being professional in our roles at work does not mean we can’t communicate or consult another person, just not in public. It doesn’t mean we can’t share concerns or problems, just not in the hallway, in the cafeteria, on the sidewalk or not at the local store.

Keeping private conversations private is a challenge for all of us. As professionals we must maintain confidentiality at all times. That means hold conversations in private.

Even a phone conversation to another professional could be considered a violation of privacy. You need to be sure that you have permission to contact another professional, either in writing or in their presence.


Take a personal inventory of your behavior and how you communicate with others. Just like your English teacher taught you that a good story includes who, what, when, where, why and how, so does keeping our conversations private.

Children's Song

What is that children’s song? Oh be careful little eyes what you see? Oh be careful little lips what you say? Oh be careful little ears what you hear? Oh be careful little hands what you do? Oh be careful little feet where you go? For the Father up above is looking down in love oh be careful little ____ what you ___?

Your friend,


Phone: 319-572-2745

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