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How Much of Your Personal Life Should You Bring to the Workplace?



Almost everyone has that colleague that tells them about everything that goes on in their life; from their spouses, kids and intimate moments, they just keep going on and on about everything and you will just sit there enjoying the gist you did not request for. With time – and many more discussions – one voice will start whispering into your ears to reciprocate by telling them your life history too.  Ah! Don’t do it o, that voice is the evil spirit talking.

It feels amazing when we have colleagues have our backs; thanks to them, the work environment is not a nightmare. A conducive work environment is an important factor in the productivity of the employees. But how do you keep a professional work environment strictly professional?

It is estimated that many workers spend a minimum of 40 hours a week in the workplace. Now, bringing it to this part of the world where some people work up to 12 hours every day (Yes! You heard right), there’s a tendency that you’ll begin to get too relaxed in your work environment and start to see your colleagues beyond the professional lens.

Truth be told, it’s hard not to talk about your personal life with those who are there with you day in and day out, especially if you share rides, order lunch together or use the staff bus. But no matter how close you are with your colleagues, there is still a fine, invisible line between being professional in the workplace and being personal – with the latter having a higher tendency of putting you into trouble if your colleagues are incapable of keeping things to themselves, or if things go south between you.

It can get dicey. Sometimes, you want to just drink water, mind your business and get the job done. On the other hand, you also wish you could help when an employee’s personal situation causes them distress.But how do you ensure you do this without crossing that line? How much of your personal life should you bring to the workplace? Let’s be frank, not much. As a matter of fact, if it is possible not to talk about your personal life, then avoid it totally.

We are not encouraging you to become callous or indifferent to the grief of your colleagues, we’re just encouraging you to know when to talk and when to seal your lips.  Whenever you resume work, it is better to fold up your personal problems and tuck them in your pockets before stepping into the office. This does not apply to work-related problems like having issues with a file, being overwhelmed with work or sexual harassment in the workplace. We are talking of issues like you having a fight with your landlord, your sex life, family matters, future plans and so on. Issues like these can be used against you if, God forbid, you and your colleagues have a misunderstanding one day and they decide to spill all the tea and leave you looking stupid.

Imagine two colleagues fighting and one of them suddenly says “is that not how you broke a bottle on the bouncer’s head in the club last Friday?” and when the other tries to deny it, another colleague chips in “But you said so na, when you were gisting us about drugging one of the girls you met in the club.” Ahhh, gobe! He will not just be fired from work, but he will also be chilling in kirikiri until God knows when.

If you are one of those people whose mouths do cho cho cho in the workplace, you need to start casting and binding the spirit of talkativeness in your life before it lands you in serious kasala.

So how can you maintain professionalism in your workplace?

Keep your pleasantries short
It is common courtesy to exchange pleasantries at work “Hi, hope you’re doing well – I’m good, thank you”, “How was your weekend – It was awesome, and yours?” These are simple pleasantries that break the ice before the start of the day’s job and may lead to more productive discussions. When it goes beyond this to spending hours having intimate conversations, then it means that the handshake has passed the wrist and is extending towards the shoulders. Be careful!

Susan Heathfield, who writes about Human Resources for The Balance Careers, said: “Where a lack of privacy at work becomes problematic, in my mind, is when it becomes excessive.

Not all shiny teeth are clean!
Your colleagues are so friendly that you think it is time to get all mushy mushy with them? You better think twice! It’s not everyone who smiles that is nice. It also doesn’t pay to be cold and aloof, especially when your colleagues are being friendly to you. The best thing to do is to be observant, know who your colleagues are, and how best to interact with them. You can also be that colleague that people can turn to when they need help, but handle it professionally.

You’re not the only one in the office
A consistent relay of your problems and weakness to your colleagues in the workplace may not have the best impact on the level of respect your colleagues have for you. The effect of talking too much about your problems is such that your colleagues begin to see you through the lens of your weaknesses and not your strengths. You might bring more to the table, or be more intelligent, but they will always see you as that colleague who cannot handle their family issues or personal problems. Does this mean you must die in silence when going through a rough patch? No! Sharing certain issues with your colleagues could be helpful in the long run. After all, many heads are better than one; but ensure that you do not overwhelm them with your personal problems.

So, over to you Bellanaijarians, how much of your personal life do you bring to your workplace, and how has it paid off for you?

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