Developing Your Career

Warning: You May Be Ruining Your Credibility

By Helene Cavalli on October 25, 2012

In today’s culture of sharing, we’re seeing many people all too readily volunteering the most intimate details of their lives. Much of this overload of self-disclosure has crept into the workplace. While sharing some information is helpful in establishing connections, forging bonds, and building trust, sharing too much information with your boss or co-workers about personal problems or poor choices could negatively impact perceptions about your competence and ability to make sound decisions. Disclosing too much can also cast a shadow on your credibility, trustworthiness and professionalism. It could also mean you’re overlooked for a new assignment or promotion, left out of important decisions, or just plain ignored.

Here are a few guidelines you may want to consider to help you balance how much sharing will be a good thing for your career:

  • Keep personal problems personal. If management believes your personal life is in disarray, you’ll have a tough time selling yourself as someone they can rely on. For example, if you’re sharing daily updates about a personal issue, your boss and co-workers may feel you’re too distracted to be productive.
  • Understand the rules of workplace friendships. Friendships in the workplace are important to job satisfaction and productivity.  Unfortunately, workplace friendships can also be risky when perceived unfairness, competitiveness or resentment leads to a falling out. Don’t give an angry co-worker personal information that can hurt your reputation if your friendship goes south.
  • Share personal successes that will reflect positively on your reputation. For instance, mentioning that you completed your first marathon, received a community award or attended a meaningful seminar can boost your workplace image. But winning last weekend’s beer pong contest won’t.
  • Earn trust by using good judgment.  If you are demonstrating a lack of discretion with the information you share, you may be perceived as someone who can’t be trusted with sensitive or confidential information.
  • Brand yourself. Create a brand that says, “I’m committed, can do the job, and have the enthusiasm and determination it takes to succeed.” This is best accomplished by maintaining a positive and professional demeanor that demonstrates these characteristics every day.

You have the power to manage your image in the workplace. Verbalizing your insecurities, fears, shortcomings and personal problems can tarnish the professional image you’ve worked so hard to create. And once your reputation has been damaged, it may be very difficult to make it right.


2 Responses to “Warning: You May Be Ruining Your Credibility”

  1. Virg Setzer

    Helene – Excellent article. I could not agree more. When I reflect back over 35+ years in business working with people from production workers to senior executives in several different industries I have seen many examples where the lack of discretion has had both an immediate and long term impact on an individual. What is so amazing is that very smart people, highly competent in their given area of expertise, are often lacking in their discretion intelligence. Just yesterday I coached a senior leader on how to deal with one of his Directors who consistently demonstrates very poor judgment regarding sharing of personal information in the workplace – and that indiscretion is damaging her effectiveness.

    I believe discretion starts with a mindset, an awareness and then must be coupled with the ability to consistently self manage – it is all about how you build your image everyday in every instance. The key question I often ask leaders, managers, and individual contributors at all levels – How are you showing up today? What is the story on you? What is it people are saying about you? — competent, credible, trustworthy, etc. or something else?

    Great work – thank you!

    • Lee Hecht Harrison

      Hello Virg – agree with your comments. In my own experience, too, I’ve seen a lack of awareness and a lack of understanding around boundaries do a lot of damage to credibility and reputation. Definitely an area where coaching could have a tremendous impact.


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