There is a big push in workplaces today, to build cultures that promote personal connections among team members. It is a valuable push. Deeper connections expand our leadership potential, influence our work commitment, burnout, teamwork, and even financial performance. Moreover, vulnerability builds trust. And we could all do with a healthy dose of both.

But there is a boundary to consider when it comes to workplace friendships. Oversharing can cause you to undermine yourself. Or it can allow your emotions to seep into the team, in an unproductive way. If you’re at a leadership level, there are more eyes on you. And you may have to think a bit about how or how much you share.

Wondering what it looks like in practice? Here are some pointers to play with:

  • Watch your emotions. What you may consider as just a bad mood can ruin someone’s day if you happen to direct it at them. Being reactive or hot-tempered towards your team members can affect their morale and motivation to work. Because you’re putting the weight of your emotions on them.

If you feel strong emotions, ask yourself why. Are you unwell? Or anxious about a deadline? Either way, recognize that these are your feelings. Not someone else’s. Then, think about how to dial down the intensity of your emotion, so no one else has to take it on. It could be a walk, 5-mins journaling, calling a friend – anything that helps you relax.

  • Name your feelings. But just enough. If you’re having a bad day, you can’t hide it. Once you’ve noticed your strong emotions and maybe even managed them a bit, talk to your team. They might have already picked up on your state. According to Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor, you can say something like, “I’m having a bad day, and I’m trying my best not to take it out on you. The last thing I want is for my bad day to make your day worse. So, I might keep more to myself today. Yet, I’m available.”
  • Define a next step for the team. Sometimes, it’s difficult to collaborate when you’re feeling angry or low. Sparks could fly. But you can chart out a path to find a solution, when emotions get leaky. Say, “Because of ______, I’m feeling _____. But here’s what I’m planning to do next to make it better: _________. And here’s what I need from you: _______. What do you need from me?” This will help you address your anxiety without projecting negative emotions onto your team. And it’ll open up a way for them to respond too.

Sharing is necessary because we are attuned to each other’s energy. But finding the balance between what to share and what not, is essential. It’s a skill to be built. Are you ready?

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