Q&A: Should people talk business in the elevator at the office?

When it comes to elevator conversations with colleagues, confidentiality should always trump gossip.

Q: My colleague likes to talk business in the elevator in the office. Should I engage?

A: That’s an easy one, says Cissy Pau, the principal consultant of Clear HR consulting in Vancouver: absolutely not. “This happens all the time and it’s surprising that people still do it,” she says. “The world is too small to discuss colleagues, your boss or clients in the elevator at work. It’s not appropriate.” Here’s why: to put it simply, confidentiality trumps gossip (and everything else, including filling in a colleague) in this scenario. You may think you’re in the elevator (or in line at the cafeteria, in the bathroom, at the office gym, you name it) with your coworker and your discussion is just between the two of you, but there are often multiple sets of ears in close proximity and what you’re chatting about could very well be privileged. “Employees have the obligation to be confidential — protecting information is key here. It’s a given that doesn’t need to be written in employee handbooks,” says Pau. “Company information should always be kept private. You shouldn’t be mentioning projects, deals or customers outside your office. You could disclose information, which could lead to a business deal going bad or even a lawsuit.” Remember, you never know who-knows-what and who-knows-who when you’re talking about clients and colleagues within earshot of strangers.