What is a simple 5 letter word that links us to other people all over the word, shapes and guides our everyday conversations and connects us to people who we have both personal and professional relationships online and in person? SHARE
It’s pretty hard to peruse any website or social media platform and not see the word, share. It’s what we’re encouraged to do, asked to do and are even often told that for the sake of our safety, sanity and well-being, we should do, as much as possible. I see this, See Something Say Something, campaign every single time that I ride the DC Metro train and in essence, it’s essentially asking me to share. While many asks to share are for the greater good of our safety and sanity, there are some asks, hints at or inquiries to share that can be unnecessary, intrusive and inappropriate, and they often happen in the workplace.
I’ll be completely transparent in saying that this subject of sharing is tough, because alongside me making the claim that sharing at work can be intrusive, you also have another set of bullhorns telling you to be transparent, live your brand and lean in.
I support transparency. I encourage you to live your brand and I say go for it and lean as far in as you can without falling over. BUT, I also still say that as professionals, you are not obligated to share everything and quite frankly you shouldn’t.
Our work relationships all vary. Some of us have very friendly, open and family-like relationships with our co-workers, and it’s a great feeling. It’s great to feel appreciated, welcomed and admired at work, but some of us also have stoic, closed and business only relationships as well. Then, there’s the other group of us who have something somewhere in the middle, where sometimes, it’s business and sometimes it’s the twilight zone, and it leaves you a bit confused.
At any rate, it’s up to you to assess which of those categories you fall in to (or want to fall in to) and how you handle your personal decision to share and how much. But, regardless of how friendly or guarded your company culture and work relationships tend to be, these three simple principles will give you a sense of balance and guidelines around work sharing and boundaries:
- You Are Not Obligated To Share Your Personal Business – Many of us have the pleasure of walking the line, meaning we have people at work that we have the opportunity and safe space of sharing our personal lives with. Since many of us spend more time at work than we do with our friends and family, having that type of work connection is pleasant, but, there is still usually a line. If there isn’t one for you and you don’t want there to be one, OK, carry on. But, if there is a desire for you to keep your personal life, your personal life, then do that. You are in no way obligated to share your personal life at work. Now, company cultures, standards and even just conversational practices sometimes make this hard-line in the sand between work and business difficult with activities like, Bring Your Child To Work Day, the periodic questions about your children and family, or activities like Corporate Family Night Out. But even with the presence and opportunity to participate in all of these things, you still have the privilege of deciding how much you’ll share and when.
- Oversharing Can Be Over The Top – You can probably pinpoint exactly the person in your office who shares absolutely too much. (hopefully it isn’t you) You know way too much about their personal life and sometimes you wish you didn’t. Look, I get it. Sometimes, we all just need someone to talk to, vent to, or an empathetic ear for you to get it – whatever it is – out. But, it’s not necessary to showcase every single detailed event activity and plan that you, your family and your friends have going on, over the next 6-8 weeks.
- It Is Your Responsibility To Not Pry Into Other People’s Personal Lives And Business (no matter how close you think you are) – I have friends who I’ve had connections with for decades and I know when I need to dig a little deeper on a statement, a complaint or a situation. While you may also have a similar span of time that you’ve worked with someone, the protocol of prying into your co-workers personal lives’ isn’t the same. While you may have shared several meals with a co-worker, spent a weekend trying to troubleshoot the latest department issue or even celebrated a win over happy hour, this does not make you instant bff’s. There are still boundaries for you to adhere to even when you want to pry, push and prod.
Scarlet Says... It seems like the days of confidentiality, privacy and keeping your mask on are over, but they aren’t completely, and they don’t have to be. While some privacy policies, processes and mandates are above what we’re capable of controlling, we do still have some leverage. We each have control over what we’re willing to share professionally and where we set our boundaries. We are also very much in control of where we push the envelope in asking others to share. While taking the #maskoff and being your authentic and transparent self is a heavily communicated practice, let’s not mistake this with crossing the boundaries of personal space and information in the workplace.
Until Next Time,