Dr Austin Tay


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As someone who works for myself, the wonderful thing about my work is that I can work anywhere. A café with free Wi-Fi and power point to ensure that my laptop has constant power is important.


I like to think that I thrive, think and work better in a café. Perhaps the aroma of freshly brewed coffee or just the atmosphere encourages the brewing ideas to percolate.


It is also a good excuse to observe other patrons  (mostly working executives) in the café. In most of these cafés, seats are limited thus tables are usually very close.  To ensure that I do not get distracted, I usually work with my earphones stuck firmly in my ears. But sometimes, I do get to hear peoples’ conversations.


What I find most intriguing is how people tend to discuss work while having a cuppa. Issues discussed include complaints against other colleagues, bosses, peers and the organisation itself. I often wonder, why people are open in public places when they discuss sensitive issues?  For e.g., I once overheard a line manager giving a pep talk to his subordinate about how to work with others.


I can appreciate that sometimes it is not ideal to discuss sensitive issues in the office due to various reasons such as limited space but just imagine the consequences should all these discussions are overheard or recorded.


The fact that people need to discuss these issues might suggest a few things:


  • The culture of the organisation they work for – their comfort level to discuss such issues openly.


  • The longterm impact of those issues a) to the organisation and b) to the employees working there.


  • What are the steps and procedures in place to deal with those issues to minimise the effect and impact?


  • Peoples’ perception of confidentiality – in the course of sharing,  the people might inadvertently divulge information that might be sensitive or confidential.


While I cannot suggest a bulletproof solution, what I will suggest is that the next time you decide to have those sensitive discussions in a café, just be mindful of your surroundings.

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