Friday, December 10, 2010

Encourage Employees to Talk About Themslves

I was speaking with a former co-worker this past week and she happened to tell me about some good personal news that she recently found out about. When I loudly gave my congratulations she shushed me and told me not to spread the news because she didn't want her company to find out. This wasn't something that would effect the company or a new job opportunity or anything of the sort and while I was confused I understood her predicament.

There is a very fine line between too much information at work and being personable and sharing. Most of us work collaboratively while at our jobs but very few of us know that much about the people we work with. Some of that is intentional with employees failing to share the good or the bad when it could really help foster better communication with others. An employer should know when something bad is going on in an employee's life so they can maybe give them some extra time to deal with a sick parent or allow them to get out a little early on a Tuesday so they can go to physical therapy for that ailing back. And an employer should know when good things are happening with their employees so they can share in their joy of a birth of a new child or an engagement.

The problem is that the workplace isn't always an atmosphere conducive to sharing. Health issues aren't supposed to be talked about with certain people and employees may worry that revealing bad health may open them up to discrimination. A new child or a spouse could mean higher healthcare costs and make employees think that employers will hold that against them. Employees usually don't have incentive to share and that is what employers need to work to change. Reward and announce good news--even if it is personal. Allow employees to stretch vacation times if a loved one is dying or give them a holiday present of a new chair if they have a chronic bad back. When employees feel like they all know each other better, collaboration occurs even more.

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