How Much Should Your Boss Know About Your Personal Life?
How well do you know your boss and coworkers? In hospitality, the answer is often “very well.” When you work long hours in close proximity, you quickly form strong friendships and establish a rapport with the people around you. That can be especially true with your boss since that person continually keeps an eye on what you’re doing at work.
Although a hospitality venue can feel warmer and friendly than the typical office environment, some of the conventional boundaries between work and home still apply. Even if you have a great working relationship with your boss and feel 100 percent comfortable around them, you want to be careful about not opening up too much and oversharing personal information.
Why you don’t want to overshare with your boss
There are a few things that can go wrong if you overshare with your boss. It’s a widely accepted norm not to bring too much of your personal life into the workplace. If you overstep the bounds, your boss may conclude that you’re unaware of business etiquette or that you’re unprofessional. And that impression could mean you’re less likely to get promoted or more likely to get fired.
Sharing personal details or opinions could also bias your boss against you, whether consciously or not. For example, if your boss hates your politics, that could influence his or her opinion of you as an employee. Sharing something controversial that your boss feels strongly about could even spark an argument.
Finally, telling your boss too much about your private life could lead to your boss trying to intervene in your private affairs or take advantage of you. For instance, an unscrupulous manager could try to persuade you to choose one romantic partner over another or could hit on you right after a breakup. Your boss could decide not to give you a raise if he or she knows about some debts you owe and doesn’t approve of the way you handle your money. Everyone hopes their boss wouldn’t do something like that, but there are always a few bad apples out there. It’s better to protect yourself and avoid giving anyone an opportunity for inappropriate behavior.
How much personal information is too much?
It’s fine to share a little personal information. How many kids you have, where you traveled on vacation, your taste in movies, your favorite Olympic sport, and mainstream hobbies are usually appropriate to mention in small talk at work. These topics give your boss and coworkers a good sense of your personality and aren’t likely to cause any problems for you on the job.
You want to steer away from subjects that are more likely to cause arguments or strong emotional reactions. Don’t promote your politics or religion at work. It’s okay to mention these in passing, like saying that you went to church or listened to an inaugural address, but don’t go in-depth about your beliefs. Avoid hot-button issues relating to sexuality, violence, or drug use. These topics may be important and worth discussing in other forums, but you shouldn’t debate them with your boss.
There are also areas of your life that you should avoid sharing with your boss. Marriage or family troubles, medical conditions that don’t have any bearing on your job, details about current or previous romantic relationships, or your bank account balance are all things to keep private. There’s usually no good reason for your boss to know these things about you.
When sharing makes sense
Although you usually want to keep overly personal information out of the workplace, there are some times when it’s necessary to share personal details with your boss. You should only do this when your boss needs to know something. Generally, this comes up when you have to request some type of accommodation from your employer.
For example, if you’re pregnant, you would need to tell your boss when your due date is so you can plan for maternity leave. If you get married, that might mean your employer’s tax withholding needs to be adjusted, so you should tell your boss about the change in your marital status. If your spouse or parent has a medical emergency and you need to take a week off work to help them, you should tell your boss about the situation and explain why you need time off.
Even in these cases, you don’t want to overwhelm your boss with a lot of extraneous personal information. Simply share the main facts that are relevant and tell your boss what type of accommodation you need.