WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR COWORKER LOVES TO SHARE TMI
There’s nothing wrong with having friends at work — in fact, research has proven that it’s very beneficial for happiness and productivity. But the problem comes in when too much out-of-office “friendly” chatter makes its way into the workroom.
In a Randstad’s Work Watch survey, some of these fears of having workplace friendships came to light. In the survey there were four risks people saw with forming friendships with colleagues:
- 44% said workplace friendships can feed gossip
- 37% said they can create favoritism
- 37% said they blur professional boundaries
- 26% said they can cause others to feel uncomfortable
Note specifically the “gossip,” “blur professional boundaries,” and “uncomfortable” responses. These are generally a result of a colleague who has a problem sharing TMI (too much information).
They say you should never talk about politics or religion at the dinner table, and the same thing goes for the cubicle. Sometimes coworkers overshare about their personal relationships; others brag about their hard-partying weekend lifestyle. You can even run into issues with a bit too much information on a colleague’s recent doctor’s appointment.
To avoid these downsides of workplace friendships, there are three steps to take to shut down your TMI-loving colleague.
#1. Don’t Feed the Trolls
Put a stop to all encouragement — whether you intend to be doing it or not. When a coworker brings up detailed stories about their ex-girlfriend, instead of asking questions to perpetuate the story or even making eye contact and nodding your head along, walk away.
It can be as easy as just simply stating that you’re swamped with work at the moment or that you have to make a phone call. Put an end to the conversation. Don’t allude to it again, no matter how much your elevator ride up to the office begs a friendly chat. It will help that TMI coworker know that you’re not interested in this line of discussion.
#2. Speak Up
If you’ve tried to not feed into the uncomfortable conversation and your colleague still doesn’t take the hint, it may be time to speak up. This doesn’t have to be — and shouldn’t be — a confrontation.
The next time a coworker starts taking a deep dive into religious beliefs and why they’re definitely not voting for that one presidential candidate, simply say that this line of conversation is making you uncomfortable. Make it clear that you’re not taking issue with them wanting to chat, but that the topic is unsettling for you in the workplace. Most people will understand and stop the behavior.
#3. Take It to a Manager
If you’ve already voiced your concerns with your TMI colleague and they still feel the need to give a detailed explanation of their latest illness and medical history, the next step would be to take your concerns to a manager. Chances are, if this coworker is making you uncomfortable, they’re also doing the same to several of your other colleagues.
You may feel like you’re escalating too far by getting the attention of a manager, but some TMI, particularly offensive jokes or anything of a sexual nature, can be considered harassment, and the manager will want to be aware so they can change behavior.
Workplace friends are great, but know what to do when the weekend TMI stories start to make it into workday talk.