When to Share and Not to Share Stories at Work

Recently, I wrote a blog about job search tips and how my brother used some more traditional techniques to find a job. But before I wrote that story, I wondered just how much I really wanted my co-workers, let alone the public, to know about my family’s personal life. I decided to go ahead and share my brother’s story because I felt it would help others who were in similar situations.

I’ve often used my family and their job search methods for inspiration when writing. I’m pretty open about my own personal life with colleagues at work, but have wondered on more than one occasion whether or not I should have told a particular story. Which brings me to my question:  What does telling personal stories at work say about you and how does it affect others’ perceptions of you?

I’ve come to the conclusion, that although some stories are OK to share in the workplace, others are best left to be shared with close friends and family members outside the office.

So, if you’re trying to move up the career ladder, present yourself as a professional, or simply be seen as a dependable, hard working employee, inappropriate stories about your fun-filled weekend or fights with your spouse are not the types of topics you want to discuss with your teammates.

Have you shared too much and not realized it until it was too late? Did it affect your work relationships or your career? What kind of stories have you heard in the workplace that you felt were inappropriate? Leave your comments in the section below.


  1. amy

    I have been on both side: sharing too much and paying for it or sharing too little and also paying for it. I would like to know how to find a balance! When I was young and fresh out of college, I thought since everyone else shared stories and went ‘out after work’ that it was ok for me to try and join them. The downside was that back at work, they were not as friendly with me later on and started to push me out of the click. I decided that it wasn’t worth it and moved on but in the process, isolated myself from my co-workers which was safer for me. I have continue to be this way for fear of sharing too much might make me not only less professional, but the target of personal attacks at work since this was something I had experience with. Now that I’m in my mid-30’s I have a very difficult time ‘getting to know’ my co-workers and I am seen as stand-off-ish and seen as shy which is not me at all. I just like to keep personal and professional life seperate. I find way too often that my co-workers share too much, are too close, and it disrupts a positive, healthy working relationship. But thee is a price for this as well because I am hesitant to share, I have not developed close relations with my colleagues and they are all close so what is the right way to go? I don’t know except to say I would rather err on the side of being more conservative at work regardless of not having better relationships with co-workers. This could hurt my career in the long run, however.

  2. Jennifer

    Amy –
    I also have been on both sides. It’s hard to distinguish between contributing to a story to feel connected with your co-workers and telling a story that might entice gossip or misperceptions about you later on. I think it’s very important to keep your personal life and your professional life separate. Unfortunately, clicks are going to happen, but I think that as long as you are always friendly and show some interest in things that are important to them, i.e. family, special interests outside of work, etc., then you can feel involved without getting too personal about your own life or theirs. Asking someone a simple question like how their weekend went or if they have seen the new hot movie out shows a lot of interest and strikes up conversations that are both professional and OK to talk about at work while getting to know them a little better personally at the same time. I think that if you keep a professional image at work while showing that you care, it will do more for your career in the long run. If you feel comfortable telling a story at work, just make sure you keep anything out that might be perceived in a bad light or give a false impression of you. Remember, some stories you share with your close friends and family aren’t always the best stories to share with your co-workers. When it doubt, leave it out is my motto. But, I definitely think it’s best to err on the side of conservative. It not only protects you personally, but it will protect you professionally as well. Thanks so much for question.
    Jennifer/Express Job Blogger

  3. Jerry Gebhart

    It seems that the days of sharing personl stories with co-workers is a thing of the past. Companies are so worried about their standing in the corprate world that policy is that you just go to work and keep to yourself. I feel that its best for us to just go to work and keep to ourselves and yes err on the side of conservative. Sad but true.

  4. Candy

    In a small staff environment, you need to have some personal connection, as there are very few places to hide your own emotions or not notice theirs. As the Executive in the small office environment, you have to sense the employee need to talk, open the communications for them to release, and ensure your support in their situation. On the other hand, you can’t share anything too deep personally with employees, unless absolutely essential to the team (your illness, absence). But your personal life may be too comfortable for them to maintain a sense of respect, once they sense your vunerable areas. Again, less is more.

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