People often ask me whether they should share their personal life at work. I have some opinions about this!  I also examined the academic research on this topic for this week’s podcast episode.
 

 

Let’s talk about this. Should we share our personal life at work?

3 Things to Talk About this week: 

  1. The Strategy: FILTER
  2. 3 Risks of Sharing Your Personal Life at Work
  3. My Communication Hierarchy

 


1️⃣ The Strategy: FILTER

 

In his book, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Canadian sociologist Erving Goffman talks about how we “perform roles” in different scenarios – at home, with friends, and at work.  He calls this concept “front stage” and “back stage” as a way of thinking about how we manage our professional identities.

Erving Goffman calls it front stage and backstage – I call it filtering.

When we’re at work, we might filter out some of our personal life and present our professional traits.  That “front stage” role may shift over time to “open the curtain” (see what I did there?) to let aspects of your “back stage” or personal life through.

The reverse is also true. Generally speaking, in our personal life we don’t introduce ourselves typically in terms of our work title and the last work project that we completed.

We’re always the same, whole, authentic, sophisticated, complicated, person.  We have multiple roles.  We filter what parts of our identity we share, depending on the context and the people with whom we’re communicating.


2️⃣ 3 risks of sharing your personal life at work

Talk-about-Talk-Episode-153-Should-I-Share-My-Peronal-Life-at-Work-Andrea-Wojnicki, two arrow pointed in opposite directions, one reads "low risk" and the other reads "high risk"

 

There are many benefits to sharing your personal life at work, at a macro (firm or team) level, at a 1:1 relationship level, and even at a personal level – consider your personal brand!

There are also many significant risks of sharing your personal life at work.  Consider these three risks:

  1. Privacy Concerns – Think about what information you’re comfortable with people knowing.  How much and what do you really want people to know?
  2. Reinforcement of Stereotypes and Biases – Research shows that people may be more likely to form opinions about you based on personal aspects as opposed to your professional qualifications. Sometimes this is because of the biases that people may hold, even implicit biases, against some element of your personal background – something that’s not even directly related to your career.
  3. Violating Norms – Here, I’m talking about institutional “norms” – ones held within your industry or corporate culture. Maintaining professional boundaries is crucial for workplace dynamics. Over-sharing or inappropriate sharing of personal information can blur these boundaries, leading to discomfort or conflicts within teams. 

So what to do with this?  My suggestion is to consider what elements you want to share, based on these benefits and risks.  Then FILTER what you share based on the context.


3️⃣ My Communication Hierarchy

Over the past few years, I’ve observed the improved confidence of executives, as they work on improving their communication skills.  With improved confidence, their credibility grows.  And once they’ve established credibility, they can create IMPACT.

This is me last month delivering a keynote presentation at a conference hosted by the Temerty School of Medicine at the University of Toronto.  This was the first time I publicly described this “communication hierarchy”. 

IMPACT
⬆️
Credibility
⬆️
Confidence
⬆️
Communication Skills
This is a compelling reason for us all to focus on improving our communication skills!

There you go – 3 things to Talk About this week:

1️⃣The Strategy: FILTER
2️⃣3 Risks of Sharing Your Personal Life at Work
3️⃣My Communication Hierarchy

You can learn more about the pros and cons of sharing your personal life at work in this week’s Talk About Talk podcast ep.153 on Apple, Spotify, YouTube, or wherever you listen to podcasts. It’s a short episode, but a good one.  I hope you enjoy it.

Have a great week.