You could lose your job by discussing ‘sins’ of the past with co-workers

Talking with co-workers about things you’ve done in you’ve done as an adolescent, such as trying illegal drugs or having sex under the age of 14, could make you lose your job.

This is suggested by INSEAD professor Henrich Greve in recent research he conducted (Adolescent Experiences and Adult Job Outcomes).

So how can ‘sins’ you’ve committed in your teens haunt you at work today? Here’s a hypothetical situation:

  • It starts with you discussing/bragging about your conquests when you were an adolescent, to a co-worker over a few drinks at the bar.
  • The colleague then spreads this information through the grapevine in the office.
  • This news is from way back in your past and has nothing to do with your performance in the workplace. However, it can lead to you being perceived and treated differently by your peers and supervisors.

As per professor Henrich – “I studied how past sins affect job changes. Having used illegal drugs before the age of 14 makes adults more likely to lose their jobs. Sex before the age of 14 has the same effect. It did not matter what level of job skills people had or whether they used drugs during the work period. Past sins are punished.

  • The research findings show that counter-normative behaviours in the adolescence affect involuntary job exit for young adults, as one would expect from the potentially stigmatizing effects of such behaviours.
  • The most likely mechanism is sorting by employers. co-workers, supervisors, and managers as they learn about these characteristics later on, and that knowledge influences things like performance assessments negatively, leading to increased risk of involuntary turnover.

As always, there are various caveats and exceptions to the research. However, just to be safe and minimise the risk that lose your job, avoid adding such snippets of your personal life to the workplace grapevine.

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