…….I saw an article on Management Today last week, that asked this very question. Then this week I read an interesting and thought provoking post on LinkedIn, from a partner in a top 20 firm who remarked on the number of more personal posts appearing on the platform and asked where do we draw the line on sharing our personal lives?
I don’t think there’s a simple answer to this because there are so many factors that dictate how we behave in a work environment and what is acceptable in one business might not be in another. From my own experience, I think that the three main issues will be, firstly, the type of industry you work in, secondly, the size of the firm you work for and lastly, your seniority within that firm. I have noticed that the larger the organisation, and the more people you come into contact with during the day, the less truly personal those interactions are. They are fleeting chats and while you might notice that someone isn’t quite themselves on any given day, you’re less likely to ask if they’re ok. There will undoubtedly be a few people that you form stronger friendships with, through lunchtime conversations etc. but on the whole you are sharing a work space.
In smaller firms where you might be working more collaboratively with your team, you’re likely to chat more and be more “visible” to those around you, especially if you rely on one another to complete tasks. A law firm or an accounting practice could well have a more serious feel (not that I am suggesting this is a bad thing at all – just that the tasks in hand will require more concentration on an average day) But a greetings card business or clothing designer might have a noisier, chattier vibe. Personally, though I began in sales, I have always worked in a creative industry and as such most of the people I have worked with have been chatty, personable people who ask lots of questions and like to share their own experiences, who support each other in a multitude of ways, not just work related issues, but home life too. It certainly makes for a more enjoyable day when you think how much time we all spend at work. And I’m certainly not a “live to work” person, I’m a “work to live” person but if that time can be made more enjoyable and motivating by working with lovely people, then bring it on! In fact, part of all the interview processes where I have worked has included a part about team fit, because no matter how qualified a candidate might be on paper, if they are not going to be a good team fit, it’s not going to work out.
Seniority is probably the biggest barrier to sharing your personal life with your junior colleagues, other than those on your level, and on the basis that there are more of them and less of you, that could be quite a lonely place. But being too chummy with people you manage can make your role as senior colleague/line manager quite tricky to manage. The pandemic has forced a lot of changes on people and the ways we all have to work and most of us don’t have the luxury of a home office or study where we can close the door on the rest of the household. We’re all working in shared spaces and many, coping with young families at home too, so children zoom bombing your meeting or a pet walking across your desk is quite normal. I think this is a great way to break down barriers and allow your colleagues to glimpse a little bit of the real you! After all, you were hired because you were a good fit; you were a good fit because of the overall person you are and you are that person because of everything else in your life which will often include a partner, children, pets, personal hardship or perhaps good fortune.
So wherever you work, be yourself. Don’t ever pretend to be someone you’re not, behave appropriately and, most of all, respectfully of your colleagues. But always be mindful of what you share!