At work, sharing the right aspects of yourself in the right ways is an art form. Disclosures that feel like relationship builders in the moment can wind up as obvious no-nos with hindsight.
By Travis Bradberry, Ph.D.
Trouble is, you can’t build a strong professional network if you don’t open up to your colleagues. Doing so is tricky, because revealing the wrong things can have a devastating effect on your career.
You must know where the line is and be careful not to cross it, because once you share something, there is no going back.
More than a million people have been tested and found that the upper echelons of top performance are filled with people who are high in emotional intelligence (90 percent of top performers, to be exact). Emotional intelligence is the “something” in each of us that is a bit intangible. It affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions that achieve positive results.
Emotionally intelligent people are adept at reading others, and this ability shows them what they should and shouldn’t reveal about themselves at work. They know better than to reveal any of the following, because these things will send your career careening in the wrong direction.
- Your political beliefs. People’s political beliefs are too closely tied to their identities to be discussed without incident at work. Disagreeing with someone else’s views can quickly alter their otherwise strong perception of you. Confronting someone’s core values is one of the most insulting things you can do.
Granted, different people treat politics differently, but asserting your values can alienate some people as quickly as it intrigues others. Even bringing up a hot-button world event without asserting a strong opinion can lead to conflict. People build their lives around their ideals and beliefs, and giving them your two cents is risky. Be willing to listen to others without inputting anything on your end because all it takes is a disapproving look to start a conflict. Political opinions are so deeply ingrained in people, that challenging their views is more likely to get you judged than to change their mind.
- That you think someone is incompetent. There will always be incompetent people in any workplace, and chances are that everyone knows who they are. If you don’t have the power to help them improve or to fire them, then you have nothing to gain by broadcasting their ineptitude. Announcing your colleague’s incompetence comes across as an insecure attempt to make you look better. Your callousness will inevitably come back to haunt you in the form of your coworkers’ negative opinions of you.
- How much money you make. Your parents may love to hear all about how much you’re pulling in each month, but in the workplace, this only breeds negativity. It’s impossible to allocate salaries with perfect fairness, and revealing yours gives your coworkers a direct measure of comparison. As soon as everyone knows how much you make, everything you do at work is considered against your income. It’s tempting to swap salary figures with a buddy out of curiosity, but the moment you do, you’ll never see each other the same way again.
- That you hate your job. The last thing anyone wants to hear at work is someone complaining about how much they hate their job. Doing so labels you as a negative person, who is not a team player. This brings down the morale of the group. Bosses are quick to catch on to naysayers who drag down morale, and they know that there are always enthusiastic replacements waiting just around the corner.
- How wild you used to be. Your past can say a lot about you. Just because you did something outlandish or stupid years ago doesn’t mean that people will believe you’ve developed impeccable judgment since then. Some behavior that might qualify as just another day in the typical fraternity (binge drinking, petty theft, drunk driving, abusing farm animals, and so on) shows everyone you work with that, when push comes to shove, you have poor judgment and don’t know where to draw the line. Many presidents have been elected in spite of their past indiscretions, but unless you have a team of handlers and PR types protecting and spinning your image, you should keep your unsavory past to yourself.
- That you’re job hunting. When I was a kid, I told my baseball coach I was quitting in two weeks. For the next two weeks, I found myself riding the bench. It got even worse after those two weeks when I decided to stay, and I became “the kid who doesn’t even want to be here.” I was crushed, but it was my own fault; I told him my decision before it was certain. The same thing happens when you tell people that you’re job hunting. Once you reveal that you’re planning to leave, you suddenly become a waste of everyone’s time. There’s also the chance that your hunt will be unsuccessful, so it’s best to wait until you’ve found a job before you tell anyone. Otherwise, you will end up riding the bench.
Dr. Travis Bradberry is the award-winning coauthor of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and the cofounder of TalentSmart®, the world’s leading provider of emotional intelligence tests and training serving more than 75 percent of Fortune 500 companies. His bestselling books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries.