Over half of workplace support staff are privy to confidential conversations

Over half of workplace support staff are privy to confidential conversationsFacilities managers often remark that ensuring their staff gain the recognition they deserve for a job well done is much less common than fielding criticism when something in the workplace goes wrong. The fact is that when support staff are doing their work well, they fade into the background. For many office workers, the people who clean the workplace, deliver the mail, keep the building secure and make sure everything in the office is running smoothly; are all but invisible. But, as a new US survey by CareerBuilder suggests – support staff may know more a lot more about the occupants of the workplace than would make those people comfortable. Fifty-three percent of support staff workers have overheard confidential conversations at work, and 11 percent of support staff workers have stumbled upon information that could cause someone to be fired.

Dissatisfaction at work, rumours and backstabbing are among the most popular themes of hush-hush conversation among workers. When asked what types of discussions they overheard the most, support staff workers who have overheard confidential conversations cited the following themes:

  • Conversations around people complaining about the boss or other workers: 62 percent
  • Conversations around layoffs or firing someone: 35 percent
  • Conversations around someone’s compensation [renumeration]: 22 percent
  • Conversations around romantic relationships between co-workers: 20 percent
  • Conversations around lying to the boss: 18 percent
  • Conversations around setting up another co-worker to fail: 11 percent

Sometimes it’s not what workers say, but what they leave behind that reveals too much. One in ten support staff workers (10%) have found something in the bins or lying around the workplace that could get a worker or the company in trouble; and a similar amount (11%) say they have knowledge about an executive or co-worker that could be grounds for that individual’s dismissal.

Lost and Confounded

When asked about the most unusual things they’ve seen left lying around the workplace or in the rubbish, more than a few support staff workers mentioned seeing evidence that workers were engaging in some Not Suitable for Work (NSFW) behaviours during the off-hours. Other curious workplace discoveries included the following:

  • A list of employee salaries.
  • Picture of partially-dressed co-worker.
  • Layoff and compensation paperwork.
  • Upcoming reorganization diagram.
  • An old love letter from one person in the office to another.
  • A predetermination request for a breast augmentation.
  • A short story about the boss and several co-workers cast in an unflattering light.
  • A pregnancy test.
  • An employee’s response to a personal dating ad.
  • An employee’s C.V. on the copier.
  • A letter from the boss’s mistress.
  • The boss’s ex-wife’s bank account statement.
  • An employee’s tax return.
  • Stolen event tickets.
  • A diamond ring.
  • A passport.
  • A full key set for the facility.

The national US survey was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder and included a representative sample of more than 500 support staff employees who classify themselves as custodians, janitors, mailroom attendants, security guards, receptionists, facilities maintenance workers, housekeepers, administrative assistants or maintenance workers.