Should You Get Personal at Work?

For once, I am going to sit on the fence with a blog, but this is a question that has always fascinated me:

How do the dynamics of workplace relationships change when people are more aware of what is going on with each other outside of work?

As a business owner, building a close-knit team has always been the highest priority for me. You might see the relationships with your colleagues as an interconnected web of commonalities, but it is a web that is far from uniform. Everyone will find their different “soul mates” in the office, people with whom they can open up and be themselves. It is inevitable (and refreshing) that there will be a reasonably wide range of people in most types of business – there is no direct link between talent and personality.

Therefore, as you integrate yourself within a team, gradually getting to know people better and better, questions arise about where to draw the line between work and home. Some people gush about their social lives, but others are a little more reticent. In some ways, the more you know about someone, the better you can understand them, but in other ways, you don’t have to know what they had for tea in order to build a fulfilling work relationship built on trust and mutual respect.

If people are able to compartmentalise their home “persona” and their “work” persona, it is perfectly possible to present a consistent professional face. However, as the boundaries between work and home become ever more blurred, it is questionable how effective this really is. If they had a family crisis over the weekend, is is not better to hint to people that they are not in the best mood on a Monday morning? They don’t have to go into details, but surely their colleagues will show a little more compassion? If someone smiles sweetly through a crisis, it makes me wonder what else is hiding behind their mask. I would err on the side of sharing and allowing others to care about you.

There you go, I’m off the fence. That didn’t last long.

I suppose that when someone shares something personal with me, it shows me that they are not afraid to be vulnerable. This says a lot for our relationship, and it means that they feel that I will not judge them. Sharing these personal moments almost always engenders a certain reciprocity, and before you know it, your relationship has moved to the next level. It often takes a particular event to cause this breakthrough, but when someone does get personal, it is a great opportunity to share something of yourself in return.

Here, the general rules of give and take apply. If you demonstrate that you are happy to share snippets about yourself, others will then feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts with you. If you are tight-lipped about your life, don’t expect others to let you into theirs.

Do you think sharing your life with your colleagues (a little) makes a difference?

Russell Thompson
About the author: 

Based in London, Russell Thompson is the Group Managing Director at LMA Recruitment, a professional services recruiting firm.  He is also currently the Chairman – Finance, Financial Services and HR Sector Group for The Association of Professional Staffing Companies.  Previously Mr. Thompson was a Division Director at Impellam. Follow Russell on LinkedIn.