Word of the Day: “Overshare” in class and at work

What is it called when a person discloses something too intimate for the setting or social company? Teaching clinical psychology to college students is to truly experience the term: overshare.  “Overshare” describes the phenomenon that prompts the listener to think “TMI.”  I’ve started covering social norms about the proper level of personal disclosure for the classroom, in the first class of the semester.

Overshares in class

Here’s a true example: Andrew with raised hand at the beginning of class.

Me: “Yes Andrew.”

With Tom sitting next to him in class – Andrew: “Suzi, I wanted to let you know about Tom and me. We had a fight but we have decided that rather than being friends-with-benefits, we made up and we are going to be in a committed relationship.”

Tom is now looking a little green and the rest of the class is either uncomfortable or rolling their eyes.

Me: “Andrew, do you remember we talked about students’ relationship intimacy matters as being inappropriate for class disclosure?”

Andrew: “Yes . . . overshare?”

Me: “I think so. Let’s move on.”  Inside my head I am thinking, for the love of God!

Overshares at work

I find that some employees so needy for attention that they provide to coworkers excruciating detail about their physical illnesses, mental illness or intimate relationship issues. While some coworkers enjoy this kind of information  most would rather not have these pictures in their heads.

Workplace oversharing creates a dilemma for HR professionals.  Employers are prevented from disclosing any information about an employee’s illness or medical condition no matter what the employee has disclosed. HR professionals shouldn’t  discuss or comment. The idea is that with information about protected-class status  as general knowledge at work, it is difficult for an employer to prove that it’s actions did not consider this status. Once the information is readily available in the workplace milieu, it is really impossible to rein it back in.

Lack of general privacy

Facebook and other instant social media channels have encouraged oversharing and a disregard for privacy, generally.  I would like to see the pendulum swing back so that people in non-intimate settings might keep this kind of information a little more private.

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