Do You Share Too Much Information at Work?

When TMI Can Become a Problem

Colleagues looking at a laptop
••• Buero Monaco / Taxi / Getty Images

When you spend so much time at work that you feel like you might as well live there, it's hard not to talk about your personal life with those who are there with you day in and day out. Beware of sharing too much information though. TMI at work can be detrimental to your career.

Realize You Can't Trust Everyone

It's understandable to want to confide in the people with whom you work, especially since you probably spend more time with them than with your family. Don't talk about your personal life with everyone. Be very selective when picking coworkers to be your confidant because not everyone is trustworthy. If you talk to the wrong person—someone who can't keep a secret or chooses not to—you put yourself at risk for becoming the subject of workplace gossip.

Don't Expose Your Belly

When a dog exposes its belly to another dog, it is giving a non-verbal cue that it is submissive. You may unintentionally convey the same message by revealing weaknesses to your subordinates or boss. Sharing personal information that exposes a vulnerability can diminish your authority with those you supervise or make your boss question whether you are worthy of a promotion.

Shhh...No Talking in School

What are you doing at work? Your job hopefully. While no one expects you to be all business every second of the day, too much time spent chitchatting means too little time working. According to Susan Heathfield, who writes about Human Resources for The Balance Careers, “Where a lack of privacy at work becomes problematic, in my mind, is when it becomes excessive. 'How was your weekend? Just great. We went on a great hike. How was yours?' is common courtesy. To spend a half hour giving a coworker a blow by blow description of your weekend is not.”

How to Decide What to Share With Your Coworkers

It can be challenging to decide what is TMI and what is okay to share with colleagues. You learned, so far, that revealing personal information to untrustworthy people can lead to malicious gossip and exposing vulnerabilities can damage you authority with subordinates and paint you as a weak person in your boss's eyes. And of course, avoid giving the impression that you are talking more than working.

But if you don't share anything about yourself with your coworkers, won't you feel isolated? If no one knows who you are as a person, you won't be able to develop relationships, and that can make for a very lonely experience. The isolation can lead to job stress and dissatisfaction. You may even earn the reputation of being a snob if your colleagues think you don't want anything to do with them. That may be just as damaging as the other labels you would earn by sharing too much information.

The trick is finding a balance between allowing your coworkers to get to know what you want them to without damaging your reputation and career. Obviously, you can limit conversations to topics like where you had dinner last night or what movie you saw over the weekend. It will be impossible to form relationships based on such superficial revelations about yourself, however.

It is perfectly okay to let your coworkers into your life if you wish. Tell them about your family and friends. Talk about your vacation or your plans to redecorate your home. There are some topics to avoid discussing though. No one needs a play-by-play of the fight you had with your partner, child, or parent. Don't disclose how much you paid for your house or a trip you just took or talk about an inheritance you are expecting. Money is always a touchy subject and can cause envy so steer clear of talking about your finances.

Never discuss your sex life because...well, just don't. Be careful about going into detail about your health issues, whether they are physical or mental.

In the end, it is entirely your choice about how much, and what, you reveal to your coworkers as long as you understand the ramifications that come from sharing too much information. Once you open a window that allows your colleagues to look into your personal life, it will be difficult to close it.