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We chat with our colleagues all the time: when we have lunch, gossip in the tearoom, or leave work together.
Sharing your personal life brings you closer to your co-workers and builds trust within your team. But revealing too much about yourself to colleagues, managers or human resources staff can cause difficulties and even endanger your work.
It’s crucial to strike the right balance between getting along with colleagues and maintaining your privacy.
“Communication in the office is tricky. You can neither spread chatter, nor be too silent and shut yourself off from others,” said Yang Yudan, deputy HR director at P&G.
According to her, there are several safe topics to talk about with colleagues during the break, such as the weather or movies. Women like to talk about makeup and clothing, while men are fond of sports and online games.
But discussing your private life, such as relationship, habits or health conditions, is a potential minefield.
Cui Xiaxia, 21, who has been working for an IT company for only two months, learned this the hard way when she found out that everyone knew she had broken up with her boyfriend.
“I spoke about it with two colleagues in the tearoom and told my clients via phone, and then the news spread.”
Her boss finally heard about it and asked her not to let it affect her work performance.
Xu Peng, a human resources director at Gree Electric Appliances Inc in Zhuhai, says that it is improper to talk about private matters on formal occasions, for instance when your boss is assigning work.
“On Monday we had our weekly meeting to discuss work. Two female colleagues were talking about how they spent the weekend traveling with their boyfriends and buying new clothes,” Xu said. “It was inappropriate.”
Sometimes revealing private matters in an indiscreet manner can result in disastrous consequences.
Liang Kun, 26, had to resign from his job at a trading company in Guangzhou last week after discussing her income with colleagues during a lunch break. “I didn’t realize it was such a serious issue until a senior member of staff went to find the boss, asking why I got a higher salary than her,” said Liang.
“Then our HR told me that according to the employee handbook it is forbidden to talk about remuneration in the office.”
HR expert Yang also reminds us that paychecks are your own business. It is unwise to share this information with others, no matter how close you are.
To summarize, Yang advises office workers to be more aware of the image they project when talking to colleagues. “When you share your personal life, it will be recorded on your invisible resume and may slow down your career progression.”
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