● By Siew Ching
When does sharing one’s personal life in the office become a problem? When it becomes way too much, too often. Here’s why it can be an issue and how to deal.
My ex-colleague – let’s call her S – used to drop by my desk before the end of the day to chat. She’d ask me about my day and then she would go on to tell me about hers… and a whole lot more. It didn’t just involve what happened within the confines of the office walls but went beyond to include her current relationship dilemma, best friend dramas, what new fitness programme she recently discovered – the list really went on and on for S.
At first, I tried to be polite and feigned interest in whatever she had to say. To give her credit, her stories were interesting and exciting… until they started taking up a lot of my time that should have been spent doing work. And things became TMI. I dropped little hints to show that thanks but no thanks I’m busy. I told her I needed to work on a thing first before I could talk (she merely came later), I moved to a desk where there were many other colleagues around (she just pulled a chair right up next to me), I even put on headphones and signaled I was trying to get some work done (no worries, she said, saving her story for the next day!).
It was only after many attempts of telling her I was not interested did S finally get the message – but not before she latched onto another colleague who paid more attention to her dramas than I currently did.
Sounds familiar? Whether you are S or me, the office oversharer is common in every office setting. And it’s easy to see why people overshare – we work longer hours at our jobs that it can start to feel like we’re living in the office and if you think about it, we spend more time with our colleagues than we do with anyone else other than our families. Blame it on social media too! It seems more common these days for people to share almost every aspect of their lives (after all, that’s the basis of social media, right?) that sometimes we forget to draw the line.
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t make friends at work or be mindful of everything that we say. It just means that we need to have a little restraint when it comes to sharing TMI with our colleagues – or yikes, our bosses!
How Oversharing Can Backfire
How harmful can sharing a little relationship drama with a colleague be, you ask? For one, it’s hardly professional and oftentimes makes the other party feel uncomfortable to listen to these personal stories. Not everyone cares for relationship drama or anything else that you deem important to you.
Plus, constantly complaining about how tired you are or how stressed you’ve been with all the work you’ve been doing sends the message that you can’t handle your job. And if it reaches your supervisor (because believe it or not, people talk!), you may find yourself on the losing end when your supervisor decides to assign more important tasks to other people since “you’re so, so, so tired OMG”.
Also, constantly unloading all your anxiety and worries onto a colleague, treating him or her like a personal therapist? It can get really annoying after a while and before you know it, everyone walks the opposite direction when they see you approaching simply because they don’t want to deal with your drama.
Reel in the Oversharing!
So what’s off limits? In general, nobody wants to hear about money (whether it is your salary or how much you paid for your new car); health problems (we’ve all got them and when it veers into the TMI territory – eeks); your love life or problems at home (spare us the details!); any negative feelings about work (you never know, the person you’re complaining about could be really close to the colleague you’re talking too!); your social activities outside of work (especially if it involves too much partying – save the escapade stories for people who actually want to know!).
The best advice in this situation, whether you’re the oversharer or the one subjected to all that oversharing? Set boundaries! Knowing where to draw the line is an important skill to have at work. Not everyone shares the same sentiments as you do and by reeling it in, you avoid causing awkward situations with others.
If you’re the listening party, it’s best to be upfront about how much you want to know about one’s private life and know that it is fine to admit you’re feeling a little uncomfortable with such openness. Colleague still didn’t get the message? Try a less direct approach and change the subject. Redirect the conversation by bringing up a less personal topic.
Learn to restrain yourself – whether it is divulging too much or wanting to know more. This is in line with maintaining boundaries at the workplace. Only talk about things you’re comfortable to share with others. Do you really want to go into a long story about your family woes? We don’t think so.
If talking about yourself, talk in positive terms. Share stories that are light hearted, inspiring, or simply just pleasant. No one can fault you for oversharing those stories!
Photo by LinkedIn Sales Solutions on Unsplash.
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