Less is More

As a friend and I were talking she mentioned what a challenge it is to keep her managers from getting personal information from employees.

Being a good listener I said, how ironic, we were just reviewing the need for good boundaries to keep managers from asking too much of staff yesterday with a client!

Um – I don’t have trouble with my managers asking for personal information, she said.

I have trouble with employees being too open!


Thinking about her point as I tried to do a better job of active listening I had to agree. Over the years people have gotten much more comfortable sharing things with their manager that they really shouldn’t.

Why not?

For one thing, it puts the manager in a difficult place: she now has to try and disremember (didn’t W. disremember?) something about you because it isn’t job-related.  And, at least in the US we want to factor in only job-related criteria when deciding raises, roles, projects, promos, etc., to stay on solid ground.

Also, sharing things that are too personal actually makes you appear unprofessional.  Its simple: if you appear unprofessional you’ve put brakes on your career trajectory.

There’s a line of course. Our bosses often know our birthdays, marital status and whether or not we have children.  If these items are within your personal comfort limits by all means share them.

Things you should avoid?

Sexual preferences or habits, religious activity, pastimes such as gambling and excessive drinking, any non-prescription drug use.  And so on.  These are the easy ones.

But you also shouldn’t share your medical information (or your mother’s) as your boss is precluded by law from asking about it.  No one in your office needs to know about any family member’s addictions, phobias, criminal tendencies, etc.  You will not elicit empathy.

Your political values, thoughts about creationism and belief/disbelief of global warming are also out of bounds. As is any uninvited appraisal of your coworkers.

Sometimes businesses say things like ‘we’re family’ or ‘there’s no secrets here.’

Don’t be naive.

Your office is not your family

Please do not put upon your coworkers the way you do your actual relatives.

And secrets? There are plenty – most for good reason: you don’t have a need to know.

Or share.

Stay happy, fun and professional.

And keep your personal life personal.

image CC Shapard.com


4 thoughts on “Less is More

  1. Good points.

    In a world where people feel it’s their duty to share what they ate for breakfast or at which street corners they are currently standing, I believe that the line of when to stop is seriously blurred.

    I agree with you that your co-workers are not your family, but I don’t think we need to go extreme and become islands. I think it’s okay to share aspects of your life…just be very aware of over-sharing. It makes things uncomfortable and as you said, it’s very difficult to “disremember”.

    • True. I have heard from others that are struggling too to be open with co-workers yet at the same time keep a sense of boundaries and privacy. It’s a challenge.

      Thanks for your comments Julie – I really enjoy reading -and thinking – about them!

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