A Faer Point: How much should you share at work?

Published: 23 November 2023


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One of the enduring effects of the pandemic is that hybrid working has made it harder to distinguish clearly between our professional and personal lives. But it’s also part of a longer process of deformalisation: as employees have become more casual in dress, so many have begun to question what they perceived to be an equally buttoned-up and outdated attitude of leaving your ‘real feelings’ at the door of the office.

The phrase ‘Bring your whole self to work’ will be familiar to most of The MJ’s readers, and it’s true that living in a way that’s consistent with one’s deeply held values and beliefs is good for mental and physical health. Honest sharing of experiences can be beneficial in developing rounded perspectives, and a more diverse world-view.

But there are caveats: when sharing is badly timed, poorly expressed or done in a way that’s inconsistent with your corporate culture, it can damage your reputation, alienate colleagues and hinder team working. Moreover, it can complicate the important role of clear personal and professional boundaries in defining expectations, setting limits, and establishing respectful relationships between ourselves and others.

There’s a popular assumption that ‘the more you know about me, the better we can do business together’ – but what if the opposite were true? The former Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s controversial article on policing provides a good example. Politicians must always ‘bring themselves to work’: they’re elected on a more or less clear set of promises, and the electorate can assess whether an individual candidate is aligned with their personal values.

But I think what played outlast week was qualitatively different. The sharp reaction prompted by her heightened language seemed to be the whole objective – she wasn’t sharing her views for clarity, or enlightenment, but to create a hard point of differentiation. Something for leaders to watch out for…

Dawn Faulkner is a partner at Faerfield Limited

Originally posted in the MJ, 23 November 2023


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