Divulging intimate details about one’s personal life at work may seem like a way to endear yourself to the crowd, but it usually backfires. It is true that cohorts tend to hover when you are unleashing the particulars about your outlandish behavior after having too many cocktails at a party. However, the closeness can be misleading. You may think you have connected, struck a common vein; but this is usually short lived. In actuality, sharing deeply personal information with coworkers in the office can spoil the professional relationships you have with them.
Too Much Information
While it is beneficial to add a touch of humanness to our business demeanor, we should guard ourselves against going too far and sharing information that can be damaging in the long run. Sharon (last name withheld) still carries the scars of a trust betrayed in the office.
“I thought I was talking to a friend,” Sharon said regretfully. “I broke down and told a coworker that I had a huge crush on a guy in the IT department. I admitted that I intentionally did things to screw up my computer so that he would have to come to my desk and fix it. I only mentioned it to this scoundrel because he kept asking me if I liked anyone at work. I did not know that he was hunting for information to use against me.”
Sharon learned too late that fierce competition at her company led many employees to try to gather compromising tidbits on each other. Her furtive revelation was “slipped” to the manager who immediately crossed her name off the list of possibilities for an upcoming promotion. Sharon’s indiscretion had a high price tag. She did not get the promotion, she did not get a raise in pay and she permanently damaged her professional reputation.
What about the guy in IT? Sharon heard that the target of her affection was resolutely turned off when he learned the truth behind her calls for help. He described her as juvenile and inconsiderate for wasting his time.
Being Friendly in the Workplace
So what is the best way to be friendly without going too deep? Offer comments on general topics— favorite foods, movies, travel, hobbies, cars, restaurants, sports. These areas reflect a personal side without putting your professional character at risk.
If prying individuals insist on asking about subjects under lock and key, do not interpret this as an attempt to create closeness. Tell them you have learned from past events that it is best to refrain from discussing such matters with coworkers. You can also refer them to Six Billion Secrets. This website, launched in 2010, provides a platform for people to explore the caverns of their lives and share unspeakable experiences- anonymously. More than one million juicy morsels have been posted!
IMAGE: Courtesy of Association for Psychological Science