Sharing Is Caring?

So with last week’s mid-week post, I talked about taboo office topics.

This week, I am continuing in that same vein with a hover on Tamkara Adun’s recent post at The Women of HR site entitled “Ladies Who Share Too Much.” In the article, Tamkara asserts that in corporate settings, it is important not to overload your co-workers with incessant sharing of personal information. When I first read the post, I thought for sure I agreed with that notion. However, when I went back to it in preparation for this post, I wasn’t so sure anymore. So, even though it feels a little like a contradiction and complete departure from last week’s post, I am hovering instead.

I agree whole-heartedly with the idea that too much sharing works against us. Like the article says, sharing personal stories doesn’t help our credibility, image or career aspirations. Especially for women. For us, sharing too much personal information with our co-workers makes us seem less serious about our work and career-path … which forms a reputation for being soft … that results in our being passed over for opportunities. For example, talking about your children all the time at work sends the message you would be unable or unwilling to take on any work that would pull you away from time with your family. But the opposite may actually be true for you — and you’ll be left wondering why you are never asked to help with special projects or invited to happy hour.

At the same time, I think some level of sharing is important and necessary to avoid appearing guarded, snobby, disinterested and/or unrelateable. Never talking about your family or the happenings in your personal life is just as bad as talking about it too much. Especially if you listen to other people’s stories and never disclose anything about yourself. That’s creepy. It will make people uncomfortable and cautious with you–which could also result in being passed over for opportunities for lack of personality and persona.

The key is to find a balance. A healthy amount of sharing is needed to be seen as human and approachable, but it should not cross the line into being overbearing or distracting from your work. Here are some tips on how NOT to cross over to the over-sharing zone …

  • Establish legitimate work-friendships. I have a couple of work-BFFs who check me when I’m getting to chatty by giving me “the look” or changing the subject or sometimes just straight-up telling me to stop talking. It is important to have someone you trust to help you protect your professional reputation.
  • Limit your personal story sharing to breaks and lunches. Avoid the habit of spending significant time chatting it up at someone’s desk. If you have a story that you are dying to share with someone, leave a note or send an email asking them to meet up with you on break or lunch so you can tell them at the appropriate time.
  • Try to find connections to work in your personal stories. Metaphors are always great! If you can find a way to connect potty-training woes to an issue you are facing in the workplace, you will score major points.

Ultimately, the key to conquering the challenge of under- or over-sharing is self awareness. If you monitor yourself and remember the goal of your sharing, finding balance should be no major issue.

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