Do you really think people can’t hear you?

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I often fly back and forth from Melbourne to Sydney and I am still surprised how many people have confidential conversations that everyone can hear. It is like they think they have this invisible bubble around them and it is OK to speak as loud as they want.

I have heard several things that even though they think they are speaking cryptically, their conversation was decodable, and I figured it out. In line, on the plane, at the carousel, at the taxi rank, on the side walk, in receptions – you name it, people will talk out loud on their phone. Don’t even get me started on the Qantas lounge! If I was a journalist that is where I would hang out for stories.

For instance, someone was talking about a restructure and who would be impacted. After being a head hunter for 25 years, it wasn’t hard to figure out who they were speaking about because I knew who the person was on the phone. I was two rows behind this person and they were speaking non-stop to the time when they were told to turn their phone off.

Today I am in Brisbane at a corporate office and I just heard someone in a conversation about sending his resume and for the other person to make sure they keep it confidential! I counted 8 people standing in ear shot of him.

I don’t try and listen to the conversations, and the people having them don’t try to be discreet either. I actually feel some of the conversations that I have heard are business risks and could be brand damaging for the company and individuals involved. My view is that companies should speak to their staff about this behaviour and educate them that private calls should be private. Also, a good dose of common courtesy about knowing your surroundings wouldn’t go astray.

Financial services is big but small. Just look at your LinkedIn connections and see how many people you have in common with others. As a business owner myself, I would be very worried if my staff were speaking in public about confidential work items.

Here are my top two tips on what to advise your employees when they are speaking on their phone in public:

  1. Tell the person on the phone you are in a public place and will call them back when you can speak in private.
  2. Repeat number 1

Please leave your public phone conversations to “Honey, I just landed and will be home soon”- that is a nice conversation to hear.



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