Some colleagues just can’t get enough of your ears. Whether you’re listening or not, they just ramble on until it becomes a tad-bit too personal. And you? You have that strained grin and laugh right on cue, even if they mention how others talked about how you smell. You have to play along, right? So laugh like it’s fine. It gets much worse when they begin sharing a bit too much about themselves.
You know what we mean. That colleague that swings by your desk or slides into your DM to give you all the gory details of how his divorce proceedings went. Or the one that tells you about how she had s*x with her boyfriend before they broke up the night before. It gets worse when one talks about how good his wife is in bed or how his kid caught them having passionate s*x. Dude! Too much information!
Most oversharers have no idea they have crossed a line. They trust you with their stories and want to deepen their relationship with you. Perhaps, they have a deep-seated issue they are dealing with and need someone to talk to at that moment. But you aren’t their therapist and probably have issues you’re dealing with too. When colleagues cross this boundary, then you know something has to be done.
Ash Rao, a certified professional career coach and global head of talent acquisition at Verizon, points out.
“Showing vulnerability takes courage. Oversharers may want to find common ground with their peers and deepen their relationships. It is a way to vent out and de-stress. Finding solace in strangers is easier than talking to a therapist!
“Divulging way too much personal information like the details of divorce settlements, relationship issues, [or] financial situations may signal a deeper problem.”
While you should be compassionate to them, you should also find a way to deal with it if it gets too much. Who wants to go to bed thinking about how Mr Ayodeji’s daughter finally started her period? Not us!
Find out three ways to deal with colleagues who overshare below, or check out this video for a quick overview of how to handle this issue.
1. Let them know
By letting them know in a nice way, a reasonable person would understand. Sometimes, they don’t know they are oversharing, so they would appreciate your approach. However, there are some that are aware they are oversharing and just don’t care; then you need to be vocal about how it affects you.
You have a right to a comfortable environment. If you feel uncomfortable, then let them know that you do not appreciate hearing the gory details about their personal life. Explain how it’s affecting your job productivity. Some people actually care to listen. But not you. Try following this structure in your request:
- When you…
- I feel…
- And the impact on my work is…
- So in the future…
2. Don’t encourage them
Sometimes, people overshare because you give certain signs that you’re listening. Certainly, there are those who just love the sound of their voice and can ramble on nonstop. In such situations, you can just take the rude route and put your earplugs on. Some colleagues talk to you about personal stuff because you’ve been encouraging them by being assertive and overly compassionate. That’s not bad, but when the chatting gets prolonged, try these out:
- Don’t offer sympathy.
- Don’t show curiosity.
- Don’t make eye contact.
- Demonstrate total lack of interest.
- Be mindful of your body language and your words.
3. Get a third party involved
“It’s not that serious!” is possibly what you’re thinking. When it begins to eat into your time, which in turn affects your concentration and productivity, then it’s serious. It would help get a third party involved somehow, especially if talking and body language proves ineffective. Remember, you’re in the workplace, and setting appropriate limits for your interactions with others is your responsibility. If your colleague is creating problems, you need to request a change in behaviour. As long as you can’t approach the colleague on your own, you need to get someone to do it for you. Get someone that person is close to in the office to help you explain the problem.
You’re helping that person a lot more than they think by helping them be aware of and set some limits. Also, by having them eat into your time, draining your energy and diverting your attention, your job could be on the line.