You genuinely like (most of) the people you work with, so a, “Hey, how was you weekend?” usually produces a story, rather than a one-word answer.
And that’s more than OK. In fact, sharing who you are as a person—that you love going to CrossFit, that you’re planning a wedding, that you volunteer with animals—can help you build stronger relationships with your colleagues, which will help you get ahead.
However, as the line blurs between “work friends” and real friends, it can be easy to forget that you’re in the office. (You know, the place where you want people to see you as focused and dedicated, where you want to be considered for promotions, where you want your request for a sick day to be taken at face value.)
So, if you’re worried about crossing a line, use these rules to check-in with yourself and make sure you’re not going too far:
You’re Sharing if It’s Helpful
Sometimes, whatever is going on personally will affect what you realistically can or can’t do in a given week. Are you sick and should really stay home for a couple of days? Have you been up until 2 AM each night this week packing, so your attention to detail isn’t quite what it usually is? Is your family in town, so you need to leave when the workday is over—on the dot?
If you’re having an off day, dealing with a stressful situation outside of work, or need to be out of the office for a bit, sharing that information can help your boss (or teammates) dole out work accordingly. Just spare others the nitty-gritty details by asking yourself: “Is including this piece of info going to help?”
You’re Oversharing if It’ll Make Others Question Your Abilities
Of course, there’s a flipside to being honest that you’re not 100% focused on work. And that’s that you can only go there so often. If you’re sick one day, dealing with personal drama the next, exhausted from staying up all night for your side gig the next—and everyone on your team knows it—you’re going to gain a reputation as someone who always has an excuse.
The trick here is moderation. You don’t have to pretend nothing phases you; and in fact, if someone knows you’re spread thin, he might be willing to extend your deadline or understand if you need a slightly longer lunch on a given day. Just know that if you always respond to how are you with “Exhausted!” “Stressed!” “Overwhelmed!” or “Fuming!”—you won’t be a top candidate for exciting projects and promotions—because of the very reasons you state every day!
So after an off-day—or week—focus on engaging with your colleagues in a positive way. If they ask how that tough situation is going, thank them for checking in, give a one sentence answer, and segue back to discussing your latest project.
You’re Sharing if It’ll Help You Connect With Someone
You’d like to have a strong relationship with everyone on your team, but there’s often that one person who’s hard to get to know. But then, she mentions a hobby—that she’s always looking for the next great recipe or loves watching baseball—and suddenly by mentioning what you cooked or watched last night, you have an instant ice-breaker.
If it helps you talk about more than work with this person, go ahead and bond over your shared obsession with Giada. Just make sure you don’t overdo it, which can come off as fake (not building any bridges) or unproductive (because it takes you spend so much time chatting about other things that you get nothing done).
You’re Oversharing if it Should Be Saved for After Hours
Maybe this person’s favorite pastime isn’t so SFW: He can’t get enough of online dating horror stories or is so repulsed by one of the top presidential candidates that he always has a new story to discuss. You might have a lot of material here that you could use to bond with him; however, these kinds of conversations are not always appropriate at work (and could isolate your other colleagues unknowingly).
So, before you launch into a recap of the worst Tinder date you’ve ever heard of, ask yourself if you were sharing this information outside of work where would you be? Making small talk at a networking event? You’re in the clear. Three margaritas deep with your old roommate? Save it for after hours.
You see the people you work with every day, so it can be hard to keep things from them. But remember, it’s called water cooler gossip for a reason. Even if nowadays, people are more likely to crowd around a Keurig, colleagues chit chat, and if something is salacious, there’s always a chance it could get around. So, if you want to share something at work, but you’re not sure if it crosses a line, remember that you can always tell more, but you can’t take something back.
April Starcadder is a consultant who turned giving unsolicited advice to friends into a career. In her spare time she drinks too much coffee and watches too much Netflix.More from this Author