Apr 19 The “TMI” Trend: Discretion equals professionalism in today’s workplace
Today with all the personally revealing reality shows on TV and
the sharing of way too much private and intimate information on social media
sites the trend for Too Much Information (TMI) is naturally spreading into the
workplace. More and more professionals are getting caught in the trap of
revealing personal information in a way that is unprofessional, inappropriate
for the office, and can even make others feel uncomfortable. Once the cat is
out of the bag it can be impossible to remedy the situation and the damage is done.
There is an old wartime military expression that reminds people to keep their
secrets so that the information doesn’t fall into enemy hands. As the saying
goes, “Loose lips sink ships.” Keep in mind that in 2010 they can also torpedo
your chances of career advancement.
Your office colleagues are your part of your professional
network, not your best friend tribe. People make judgments about you when they
hear you expressing details and secrets about your sex life, marital issues, or
private grooming habits. That’s textbook TMI, and it can wreck your career faster
than you can say “Tweet.” It’s a surefire way to put the brakes on any chance
of promotion or additional corporate responsibility because when people lose
respect for you, you lose your ability to lead.
But TMI doesn’t just blurt out at the water cooler or in the
elevator. Especially in this fiercely downsized economy, you don’t want to be
sharing too much information about your private life on Facebook, Twitter, or
in social interactions with work colleagues that happen after hours. Your
personal brand is on display 24/7, so if you want to be seen as a memorable professional
you have to make sure you are remembered for the traits that strengthen your
brand and not the ones that weaken or detract from it.
That doesn’t mean you don’t show your softer side to
colleagues and clients, because nobody wants to interact with someone who comes
off as inauthentic or incapable of being human. But there is a delicate line between
sharing and spilling your guts. Once you’re over the line – revealing
inappropriate details of your private life – others may feel uncomfortable in
Relationships are never stagnant, either. You may have a
confidante this year who keeps your little secrets quite well. But a few years from
now that close relationship may have changed significantly – leaving you to
wonder and worry whether hush-hush information is still under lock and key. Save
yourself the stress and embarrassment that occurs when a former colleague is
promoted to be your boss – while he or she still knows details of your personal
life that you would never willingly share with a corporate superior.
Think before you speak. You are creating a lasting
impression that will either help or hinder you, and living in the Information
Age means you are always under the microscope or close to the microphone. If
you would not want to see it printed across the front page of the Wall Street
Journal, maybe you should not share it with your colleagues at work.
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Sarah Hathorn is a professional image
consultant, certified personal brand strategist, speaker, and author.
Her company, Illustra Image Consulting, works
with high-achieving future leaders and large businesses by enhancing their
corporate and personal brand image to take their businesses and careers to the
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Copyright 2010, Sarah Hathorn, AICI CIP, CPBS
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Sarah Hathorn, CEO of Hathorn Consulting Group, is the go-to-expert in working with leaders and companies to create successful corporate DNA. As an executive coach, consultant and speaker she collaborates globally with clients and brands such as Deloitte, McKesson, Kimberly-Clark, Sherwin-Williams, Home Depot and other leading organizations.
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