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Too Much Information
Life is not reality TV. Contrary to the example set by the characters who populate the medium, it is not entertaining, wise or necessary to share intimate details of your life with everyone within the sound of your voice. And, this is particularly true in the context of your professional life.
The timing of this advice is a result of my having been interviewed for a recent broadcast of ABC Nightline. The piece began as an examination of the penchant of many young professionals to disclose their salary information to friends, family and co-workers. The story then morphed into a broader discussion of the current phenomenon of people openly sharing many other intimate details of their lives with others and having no qualms about doing so.
The topic of salary disclosure sparked interest in the U.S. media after the Italian government posted on its web site the names and salaries of every wage earner in the nation, with the intent to expose tax evaders.
The resulting stories in the U.S. quoted young professionals who see nothing wrong with sharing this detailed information with others. Many, in fact, said they thought that by doing so, people can help friends and colleagues to have a factual knowledge of salaries in a particular industry, which is valuable ammunition for negotiating a salary in a potential job or a raise in an existing one.
However, a number of people polled are uncomfortable about sharing this information, feel that it is inappropriate to do so, and cautioned that there may be negative results. One young woman stated that when her friends learned how much she was earning, they began to drop not-so-subtle hints that she could afford to pick up a group restaurant or bar bill more often.
A young man who was particularly proud of a recent pay increase shared the specifics of his salary with his mother who then began to ask him for money on a regular basis. Others reported having been reprimanded by their employers for sharing this information with co-workers.
The overall consensus of the U.S. media coverage was that even though there are a number of vocal proponents of sharing specific salary information, there is an equal, if not greater, number of people who feel that it can do more harm than good. They recommend following existing etiquette traditions and keeping this information to oneself, especially while at work, as the safe path to take.
On any given day in your workplace, you interact with at least three generations of people, not all of whom will appreciate candor. So, while we?re on the subject of too much information, here is a short list of other topics you should avoid discussing in your professional life. (It is your decision when and if these topics may be appropriate to share with family and close friends.)
1) Specific information about your employment contract, benefits or terms of employment;
2) Complaints ? Don?t air your grievances around the water cooler. If you have legitimate complaints, take them to your manger or supervisor or to other established channels of communication within your organization.
3) Rumors you have heard about co-workers or superiors or the solvency of the parent company. (And, listening to others as they spread rumors makes you just as guilty.)
4) People you have dated, are dating or hope to date;
5) The state of sobriety or undress in which you spent your vacation, high school reunion, or best friend?s wedding;
Remember, too, that employers are tuned into more than your resume, work record, and conversations. They?re reading your MySpace or Facebook entries and seeing a side of you that isn?t obvious in an interview or on the job.
And for the record, due to the volume of traffic it received after posting the salary information, the Italian government web site crashed. So may your career if you share too much personal information in your professional life.
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