You “carry” a secret. You feel “burdened” by a secret. Your secret “weighs” on you.
Secrecy may be an abstract concept, but there’s a reason we talk about it in these concrete terms. New research from Michael Slepian found that keeping a secret is akin to being encumbered by a physical weight. And that weight may be holding you back at work.
“The more you feel preoccupied by a secret and are thinking about it, the more you are using your personal resources — cognitive and motivational — the less energy you feel you have available to pursue other tasks,” Slepian says. “You see things around you as more challenging. It’s the same outcome as when you are carrying a heavy burden.”
In our personal lives, this dynamic can lead us to withdraw from people, activities, and relationships. In the workplace, it can result in decreased productivity and engagement — which spells trouble for employees and employers alike. “Being preoccupied by a secret at work can be demotivating,” Slepian says. “And we know if you are less motivated, you perform less well.”