Mystery No More
About three weeks ago we had two new faces in the office I work in, one in the call center near my area and another next door doing auditing. It took call center girl less than a day of employment to start spilling her guts to her new coworkers. Due to the lack of library voices in this office and my desk being a few feet from the call center, I got to hear much of their conversations despite my best efforts to drown it out with my iPod. I barely knew her name but I knew that call center girl’s marriage was failing, her son recently went to jail, her father is ill, she’s been having a lot of financial problems, and she’s been drinking much more than usual as a way to escape from it all.
This is her first day in a new office and here she is, spilling intimate details about her life along with things that could be potentially harmful if her employer finds out, such as excessive drinking. Taking a guess here, I would imagine that call center girl doesn’t have much of a support system waiting for her at home and is seeking the comfort of her coworkers because that’s all she thinks she can get. Over the first two weeks of her employment, she continued supplying details of her dilemmas. This week she’s been off because her father passed away and in her absence, her confidants have been busy gossiping and speculating and adding in their own details where they are lacking.
It’s nice to have friends at work, but you can’t go into a job thinking that your coworkers will automatically become your friends. When you’re lucky you end up with a nice group of people but nice doesn’t mean they’ll mesh well with you as a friend and confidant. Business life and personal affairs need to have some separation. Years ago I witnessed my manager get drunk and urinate in a kitchen sink; I instantly lost respect for him. He was the same manager as before but the glimpse into his personal life ruined his image. You do the same thing to yourself when you verbally give away too much personal information.
Keeping things private shouldn’t just stop at the workplace but should extend into your personal life as well. Revealing all your crazy attributes on a first date is an easy way to guarantee you won’t score a second; if you’re too much of an open book you make the wrong impression. Your friends don’t need to know every intimate detail of your romantic vacation, you don’t need to post details of your DUI on your blog, and your wild party pictures from last summer are safer on your hard drive than they are on your Facebook wall. Mystery makes a person interesting and you can’t have that if you’re overly eager to broadcast your personal affairs as though you’re doing an E! True Hollywood Story on yourself.
A big problem with oversharing is the resulting gossip, as I touched on earlier. Putting yourself out there too heavily gives people an open invitation to talk trash about you. For the most part, the only damage that results is some hurt feelings. But what happens when your boss gets word that your documented week off of work sick was actually fabricated so you could go to Florida? Or when your friend tells your girlfriend that you admitted you still have feelings for your ex? Pretty soon it can feel as though you’re one of the unfortunately people on the front page of some trashy gossip magazine where half the story is wrong, but you already put too many details out there to totally refute the story.
I have this blog and I’m on Twitter like an addict, but I choose what I want to share and who I share it with. There is plenty that I would love to talk about but I refuse because it’s not something I feel comfortable with putting on a public forum. I’m friendly with my coworkers but not overly so; I reveal the bare minimum when asked questions because no one I work with needs to know what my husband and I did over the weekend or how my son is doing in school. I can’t think of one person on this planet that knows everything there is to know about me; I don’t exactly give descriptions of my past boyfriends to my husband and each of my friends is on a different level when it comes to how well they know me. It’s not that I’m distrustful, it’s about what I believe people need to know and what I feel is relevant and am comfortable sharing.
Be open, be honest, but also be careful. Don’t mistake a gossip hungry person for one who cares. It doesn’t matter if you’re a CEO of some prestigious company or you’re a cashier at McDonald’s, you have to care about the way you present yourself in a working environment and you need to make sure you don’t self-sabotage yourself with the things you choose to reveal about your personal life. There’s a difference between being the topic of conversation because you’re popular and well liked and being the topic because you’re the walking equivalent of Star magazine and just make great entertainment.