Where Do You Draw the Line between Personal and Professional Life?

laughter by tompalumbo on flickrA Wall Street Journal article I read recently brought back memories and brought up questions.

The article, When It’s Hard to Hide Your Personal Life at Work, shared situations from hiding the fact that they had downed a three-martini lunch (how do you hide that?) to women who hide their breast pumps.

The article went on to point out that some parents call in sick when it’s really the child who is sick, and others who unashamedly use the office phone to interview a clown to appear at a child’s birthday in listening distance of surrounding cubicle dwellers.

Then there are the workers who can’t bear another hour at work and make up an excuse to leave early, sometimes asking coworkers to clock out for them. I must caution you about this, however, because if you do this routinely you are stealing time from your boss and after $5,000 worth of time could be charged with grand theft.

Oh, and your helpful coworker would be aiding and abetting.

When I began teaching in the late 60’s, the line between personal and professional life was so blurred that it was barely visible. Administrators treated teachers like children, and expected obedience and conformity to some guidelines that are unbelievable today.

During the interview for my first teaching job, for example, the principal asked if I was married, and since I was single wanted to know if I had a boyfriend or had plans to get married soon. I almost missed getting that job because administrators feared that females would quit their jobs once they got married. (Talk about antiquated thinking!)

When teachers called in sick, the principal would call us during the day to see if we were home. (We could really have used caller ID and cell phones then.)

I don’t remember a teacher getting fired for any of these infractions, but it certainly made for uncomfortable working conditions.

By contrast, there was a teacher who was caught dealing drugs. I heard that she lost her job and her credential, but later I learned she was teaching again, at a different school.

It was tough to hide extramarital affairs if you have the misfortune to have a heart attack during climax in a motel room with your lover. That happened to one teacher, or should I say to his family since his death meant he wouldn’t have to face the aftermath (I wouldn’t want to have had to made that 911 call.)

So where is the line between professional and personal life?

Are employers entitled to check your Facebook or My Space pages to see what you’re up to and use that to make decisions about keeping you on the job?

Should you be able to check personal email or make personal calls while on the job?

Let me hear from you. Where do you draw the line or do you?