Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Oversharing in the Workplace

I'm going to pick up on two posts that have ramifications in the workplace: Holding Some Back at The Journey and Chronic Sharing at My Moxie Life. These posts discuss the practice of women sharing too much in the workplace in attempts to be open, honest, and bond with other women. Both posts chart how this is treacherous territory.

If you have a best friend at work whom you trust, you can share with her or him whatever you wish within the confines of the friendship. That's absolutely fine. That's healthy. But do not share with other women (or men) that you do not know as an attempt to bond.

And here's why we don't want to overshare at work: we give up control and we give up power over that information. Once it's out, it's out. Oversharing often leaves an icky feeling, which I consider to be a reliable internal barometer of when I've overstepped a boundary.

As you may know, a giant metal pipe fell from the sky into my windshield while I was driving Thursday night in rush hour traffic. This deeply affected me in ways I'm not documenting on-line because I like The Privacy (and in fact The Privacy is strongly connected to The Creativity. No privacy. No creativity for me). However, the pipe incident did affect my work that was due on Friday and was incapable of finishing Thursday night. So I wrote a short email to the supervisor saying essentially, "I had a minor car accident Thursday night, so this work will not be done until Monday rather than Friday."

And his response? "I'm sorry about your issues."

That definitely caused me to have the oversharing icky feeling and re-evaluate how I could have handled the situation. I don't consider the car accident oversharing exactly or an "issue." I consider PMS "an issue." The car accident is a valid excuse.

Nevertheless this anecdote emphasizes how we need to be exceptionally clear on where our boundaries are in terms of what we share (I actually have a list of what I don't share). In terms of my own work boundaries (and apparently my supervisor's), I was oversharing my "issues." In retrospect, I wish I had just said the work would be late. Period.

Just because I've written of the decompartmentalization in the workplace in which you bring your whole self to work (the ethical self, the mommy self, the wife self, the volunteer chair self, the crafter self), does not mean that you need to share the entire self with the entire office. That is not what Parker Palmer was intending in A Life Lived Whole. You can bring the whole self without sharing the whole self. Being whole? Good. Sharing whole? Not necessary in the workplace.