As a new Ensign in the Navy, I worked for a Lieutenant named, Sheila. She was nice but didn’t know what to keep to herself. It was then that I learned that there is a LOT of truth to the saying, “familiarity breeds contempt.” In that, the more she talked (and I knew about the intimate details of her life), the less I respected her.
There’s a fine line we walk, as leaders, in sharing enough to be personable and be seen as human and too much that we lose the respect of our people. That line is different for every leader and every relationship; however, I think there are some things that we should never share.
. Don’t engage in he said, she said, what you make, what others make, who is sleeping with you, or how sexy you think the person down in accounting is. We all love a little gossip (I know I do) and it is fun to blather on about how Billy jilted Suzy and how Suzy got back at him by boiling his pet rabbit on the stove BUT idle gossip degrades the trust between all involved.
2. Details of your sex life.
It is GREAT that your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend and/or “buddy” brings new meaning to the Rick James song, “Super Freak.” Some might be jealous to hear about it and some might be repulsed but all will get a visual of you that they don’t need (or want). Do EVERYONE a favor and keep it to yourself.
3. Personal problems.
Yes, it is sad that your kids are in/out of jail and that your parents moved without giving a forwarding address. However, your people aren’t your therapists and they’ll start wondering why (with so many problems) you are in charge of them. Tell your bartender about it (unless you manage a bar).
4. Discipline of others.
Yes, you really showed Johnny who was “boss” when you docked him pay, gave him a letter of reprimand, and took away his birthday but Johnny still works there and doesn’t need anyone else to know.
5. Politics or Religion.
If you are a Senator or a Priest, disregard this and share either with those around you (politicians can use some religion and clergy can use some politics). In today’s increasingly diverse world, no one should feel pressured to believe what you believe or vote how you vote. Put the bumper sticker on your car to show your support for your candidate and shut up.
6. Bodily fluids.
I don’t think this needs any explanation.
Like I stated, every workplace and work relationship is different. I am an advocate for connecting with the people that work for you and knowing them as people. I am also an advocate for leaders being seen as human. That requires some disclosure and risk on a leaders part. But, there are some things that you should just keep to yourself so that you can keep the respect of your people.