How To Draw The Line Between Your Personal And Professional Life

It's always a good idea to stay in your boss's good graces by being both amiable and approachable. But veering too far off into the friend zone can spell serious disaster for all parties involved. You may even put your job in jeopardy. And as it turns out, that goes for your coworkers too. "You don't need to be best buds," workplace expert Amy Cooper Hakim said during an interview with CNN Business. "You want to be kind, professional, and nice. But we don't need to tell every person at work our deep dark secrets, and long-term goals and dreams," she advised. 

Still, that's a lot easier said than done. Especially in the work-from-home era, when bosses and coworkers can often literally catch a glimpse into your home and family life. Fortunately, however, there are ways to separate your professional and personal life and ensure a successful working relationship for all.

Be careful of sharing TMI

While some employers may have the "bring your whole self to work" mentality, perhaps it's not wise to let them know every dirty detail about your life. "It's important to be cautious with what you say to your boss, as even the slightest slip up could make or break your career," said Career Coach Ryan Kahn told Business Insider

Case in point: your weekend activities. While your boss or co-worker may ask you how your weekend went, a simple "Good. I had plenty of time to unwind," response is best. It's not necessary to disclose that your definition of unwinding involves spending both nights out on the town. Sure, it seems harmless to share your wild time outside of working hours. But, the next time you stroll in a few minutes late on a Monday your boss might wonder if that weekend fun is the real culprit for your tardiness.

Instead, one expert encourages employees to practice sharing information they are comfortable with. "Know your comfort zone and what you feel safe saying without giving away too much," Head of Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging at Upwork Erin Thomas advised Fast Company readers.

Redirect your oversharing coworker

It's a common occurrence. You're sitting in the office break room enjoying your chicken salad sandwich and minding your business. Then, a co-worker saddles up to the table and starts rambling about the latest in her child custody battle with her ex-husband. While you may empathize with your co-worker's plight you might also want to enjoy your lunch break in peace. 

Unfortunately, most oversharers don't even realize they're doing it. "For most, oversharing just points to poor stress management and a desire to connect," career coach Ashley Stahl explained to Sunday Edit. Still, you have every right to implement boundaries. Licensed social worker Melody Wilding suggested to HuffPost, "Tell the oversharer, 'I appreciate you sharing that with me. In the future, this is something I would like to talk about while we're out at drinks instead.'"

But what if you want to be spared of the sordid details surrounding your co-worker's divorce drama altogether? Be honest! "It's OK to say, 'I'm starting to feel a bit uncomfortable having this conversation at work.' Or 'I feel honored that you trust me, and I'm not sure I want to know this much,'" Julie de Azevedo Hanks, a psychotherapist, explained to HuffPost.

Navigate social media with care

Just because your boss or coworkers sends you a social media friend request doesn't mean you have to accept. The Cut columnist Alison Green tells readers that it's A-okay to leave that friend request unanswered and pretend as if you never even saw it. According to Green, a boss or coworker will rarely ask you why you didn't accept their request. But in the event they do, she recommends saying something along the lines of "Oh, I'm always missing stuff on Facebook." You could also be a bit more direct and explain that you have a policy of not adding current coworkers as friends on social media.

Alas, hindsight is 20/20, and many have accepted a friend request from a coworker or boss, only to regret it later. Fortunately, there are still some options. Many social media platforms offer ways to stay connected with the user but block them from seeing your content without them knowing. So, adjust your privacy settings and make sure any posts you wouldn't want a coworker to see aren't visible to them.