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Too Much Information (TMI) - way more than you need/want to know about someone

I know more about some coworkers’ personal lives than I know about what they are doing at work -- and should be sharing. It’s a curious phenomenon.

I want great communications about work—transparency. Give me background so I understand why we’re doing something, help me understand. Let me see the work in progress.

Instead I know what the children are doing or not doing, what happened at another workplace, stories of the good ole days.

Discretion is missing
1: having or showing discernment or good judgment in conduct and especially in speech: prudent; especially: capable of preserving prudent silence
2: unpretentious, modest
--"discreet" Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, 2009

How have we come to this, to TMI?
Technology and cubicle dwelling
People seem to not care who hears phone conversations. Are people oblivious or think it’s somehow a sign of status? I forget I’m in a cubicle when I get caught up in a phone conversation. People with offices leave their doors open and seem to face the open door when talking. If it’s a cell phone call, you can walk to a private room to talk.
Television shows show rudeness as accepted behavior.
Social media puts many thoughts and feelings out on the Web.

In love with oneself
This willingness to tell unsolicited tales about our pets, our families, our past adventures makes me wonder if the teller is insecure, lonely, immature and/or egotistical.

Solicited vs. unsolicited information
Relationships are important. It helps us understand coworkers if we know some education, experience and personal background. But there is a boundary line of civility about how much and what kind of information we share, when and where we share it. I found it impressive when a coworker asked if I wanted to see some vacation photos. He didn’t thrust them in from of me and launch into a commentary.

Being more civil, respectful, unpretentious, unobtrusive
I find those who don’t give too much personal information more professional and actually intriguing.

I’m still interested in why people will share personal information but not work information. If you have an opinion, post a comment please.


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I am posting this because a coworker said she couldn't get it to post and sent it via email to me.

Guess we could delve into personality theories to find out what makes some of us indiscreetly talk about our personal lives at the office. Perhaps we could study this -- read about it. How about: Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman (1985) or Talking from 9 to 5: Women and Men at Work by William Morrow (1994). I do believe we could all be schooled more in the art of conversation.

Interesting parallel, I think, between this topic and one of the excerpts from the "Civility is Boring" post on 2-4-09. "Twin strands in tension in every society and in every individual: the individualistic and the communal autonomy and solidarity."

Some feel they have so little control over their activities, responsibilities and authority in their work lives that they bring to the public space and eye a part of themselves that they do control. It can be a way of saying, "Look at me," or it could be a plea to "please let me know I'm welcome and important here."