Are You Sharing Too Much Information With Your Coworkers?

Why You Shouldn't Get Too Personal at Work

Colleagues looking at a laptop
••• How much personal information do these coworkers share with one another?. Buero Monaco / Taxi / Getty Images

Do you talk to your coworkers about everything? When you spend so much time at work that you feel like you might as well live there, it's hard to not talk about your personal life with those who are there with you day in and day out. Sharing too much information with your coworkers, however, can cause problems.

You Can't Trust Everyone

You may want to confide in the people with whom you spend at least eight hours a day, five days a week. That's understandable, but be careful about with whom you share your secrets. Not everyone is trustworthy. If you talk to the wrong person, you may risk becoming the subject of workplace gossip. Some people have loose lips and can't help but reveal what others tell them. Others are more malicious. For them, sharing gossip about others is a sport.

Don't Expose Your Belly

A dog that wants to show a more dominant dog that it is submissive will roll over to expose its belly. That may be what you are unintentionally doing when you share something that reveals your weaknesses. Your subordinates may take advantage of this knowledge. It can also influence your employer if you are under consideration for a promotion to a managerial position. You should be demonstrating your strength instead. 

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, “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.”

Deciding How Much to Share With Your Coworkers

Figuring out how much to share—and how much to keep to yourself—can be perplexing. You don't want to reveal things about which malicious people can gossip. You want to avoid giving the impression that you are weak, especially if your desired career trajectory requires you to demonstrate strength. But if you don't share anything about yourself with your coworkers, it will cause you to become isolated at work. No one will ever know much about you. That can make for a very lonely experience and that can lead to job stress and dissatisfaction.

You may even earn the reputation of being a snob if your colleagues think you want nothing to do with them. That can be no less damaging than the other labels you may earn by sharing too much information.

What types of information can you share with your coworkers? Obviously, you can talk to them about anything superficial, like where you had dinner last night or what movie you saw over the weekend. It will be impossible, though, to limit your conversations with them to those topics and you don't have to. They can know some things about your life outside work. If you wish to, tell your coworkers about your significant other, if you have one, and your family. They can know where you live. You can even talk about your plans to redecorate your home.

There are some topics you should avoid. Don't give the details of a fight you had with your partner, child, or parent. You shouldn't tell them how much you paid for your house or a vacation. Don't talk about an inheritance you are expecting. As a rule of thumb, stay away from anything that has to do with your finances. Do not ever talk about your sex life. 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.