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Thank You for Not Sharing

“Wow! Did I get hammered last night!”

“Had a great job interview yesterday. I’ll be out of here by the end of the week.”

“Dude — let me tell you about my colonoscopy.”

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If these sound bites sound like appropriate information to share with your office mates, you may have OSD — Obsessive Sharing Disease. Or so is the diagnosis of author and executive coach, Peggy Klaus in a recent article in The New York Times.

As Klaus shared with the readers of the Times, many of us over-share when it comes to the ways we overdo. Unfortunately, the sins you committed last night are just not appropriate when you arrive in the office in the morning. You’ve heard the World War II caution that “loose lips sink ships.” Well, guess what? Loose lips also sink careers.

Most of the blame for most of the over-sharing falls on the heads of young people. “I’ve been hearing a lot about 20-somethings who are too eager to tell all at work,” Klaus writes. “Whether they are recounting their drunken exploits or their external job searches, their tendency to provide too much information is leaving many managers scratching their heads.”

This makes sense. Managers were young people once. It may be difficult for you to believe, but that old guy in the corner cubical used to indulge in all kinds of merriment, such as panty raids and cow tipping. Naturally, it makes managers feel melancholy when they hear their whippersnapper recruits boasting about the wild time they had the night before, especially when the manager’s idea of a wild time these days is to go shopping for door hinges at the local Home Depot.

Of course, it’s not just the subject of binge drinking that makes workplace story time dangerous to your job security. There is also binge dating and binge eating and even binge pregnancy. As Klaus reports, “one chief executive of a small company, upon congratulating her colleague on becoming a grandmother, received a blow-by-blow account of the daughter’s birthing ordeal, from the progressive state of the expanding cervix to processing the placenta.”

This does seem like an extreme and unnecessary conversation to have with your boss. Certainly, it would have been much easier, and much more dramatic, to simply show the video.

There are many theories as to why so many people insist on saying so much about themselves. “One explanation is that it’s a continuation of online behavior,” suggests author Klaus, and I definitely agree. We’ve all become accustomed to sharing our most intimate secrets on Facebook and YouTube, and if our friends online enjoy seeing us trip over the cat and fall through a plate-glass window or drive our car through the garage door and run over granny, it seems natural to share such magical moments with our friends at work.

Others blame narcissistic baby-boomer parents for “raising children with an overblown sense of worth.” This seems unlikely to me. Look at your parents. They raised you to have zero self-worth. They did it with constant criticism, irrational demands and only the most minimal reinforcement. Your childhood might have been miserable, but in the workplace, you feel right at home.

If you fear that you may be prone to providing too much information – TMI —to too many people – TMP — Klaus offers suggestions to keep your ego in check so you can keep getting your check. For example, before you open your blabbermouth, ask yourself — “Why am I sharing this? What’s the point?”

If you answer yourself that the only reason you’re sharing is because you’re such a great person that it’s your duty to let the world see your wonderfulness, that’s selfish and you should button it. Remember — the purpose of OSD is not to make yourself feel better; it’s to make your co-workers feel worse.

And what are you supposed to do if your life is so boring that you can’t even find a single embarrassing incident to share with your colleagues? Klaus doesn’t have the answer, but I do — go right ahead and share every detail of every tedious task you do every night with the people you work with every day.

Just because your stories are so boring and aimless that your co-workers will want to quit on the spot, don’t let this stop you from blathering on and on and on. After all, the more co-workers you can send packing, the better chance you’ll have of hanging on to your job.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@funnybusiness.com.

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