Sunday, December 24, 2006

TMI: Too Much Information

An executive once said that his company suffered from NETMA - "Nobody Ever Tells Me Anything" - and that productivity and morale increased once management started letting the employees in on the big picture.

That approach is commendable on a macro-scale but requires caution on the micro. You can encounter executives, managers, and employees who reveal far too much of their personal lives and in doing so damage their ability to perform the job.

Here's an actual case that I encountered years ago: A young woman was hired as an administrative assistant. Within a couple of weeks, her co-workers knew the details of her sex life, political positions, disputes with family members, problems with former employers, and preferences in underwear. She was a highly talented worker, but those disclosures caused her to be stigmatized with unattractive labels. What she saw as candor, her co-workers regarded as bizarre. She would have been wise to limit her disclosures and recognize that not every listener has her best interests at heart.

The Sixties produced a "Let it all hang out" mentality that may work in a commune but is lethal in a workplace. The idea that all subjects can be discussed without negative repercussions assumes that people are angels, not people. Until people achieve that loftier status, discretion is the better course.

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