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TMI and the Washerwomen

December 13, 2010

I’ve had work colleagues who are as close-mouthed as James Bond being held in a villain’s lair.  They’ve gotten married, divorced, had surgery, had children, bought a new house…and never disclosed any of it.

On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve also had co-workers who have shared every piece of minutiae about their lives – aches, pains and ailments; descriptions of various bodily conditions; updates on the personal intimacy level with their spouse, significant-other or not-so-significant other.  These updates did not come to me in my HR role because an employee felt the issues had some bearing on a work-related issue.

These were news flashes that were broadcast in the lunchroom, break room, parking lot or while I’ve been refilling my coffee cup at the snack station.  Stories that were often shared with an assembled crowd.  And members of that crowd then, invariably, found the need to breathlessly pass on the news to other co-workers: “Did you hear about Joe’s sister-in-laws’ miscarriage/arrest/drunk driving conviction?” “Wow, no wonder Samantha doesn’t get her work done.  Did you hear about the latest stunt her fiancé pulled?”

There are some who support the concept that gossip, at work, can be beneficial.   See here and here.

But I’m not talking about ‘work gossip’ that may, if done in the right style, have some benefit for information-sharing.  Rather, I’m talking about people disclosing lots and lots of personal information about themselves.  Or their coworkers.  Or people in the community. 

Is it the modern day equivalent of the stereotypical washerwoman

How do you deal with people who overshare at work?  Are you fine with it?  Do you walk away?  Do you perhaps tell people you’re really not interested? 

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