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Oversharing at Work: When Gossip Turns Into Something More

Posted in Human Resources (HR) Compliance, Social Media

Do you know some of your co-workers deepest, darkest secrets? And did you want to know those secrets in the first place?

Odds are, somewhere, sometime, you’ve had a co-worker that has shared a little too much information.

Indeed, in this Facebook age, “oversharing” is turning out to be an issue; some employees just seem to lack a “privacy filter.”

Indeed, earlier this year, The New York Times ran a column on “obsessive sharing disorder” which noted that when employees share too much information, it can have a negative impact on the workplace and on working relationships within the workplace.

Last night, I had the opportunity to appear on Huffington Post Live, an online talk show created at of the Pulitzer Prize winning news site/blog.  We talked about this very issue and the legal issues that might flow from this.  (The other online panelists included Eric Meyer, of the always topical, The Employer Handbook.)

Suppose, for example, you’re a manager and you learn, through an employee’s “oversharing” that co-workers are telling racially-charged jokes. The employee isn’t complaining about it, but something feels wrong to you. What do you do? Ignore it? Tell the employee to stop sharing that information? Go to Human Resources? Relay the concerns to your boss?

And if you don’t report such behavior, will the company be liable for permitting such potential harassment to continue?

 We also talked a bit about the role of human resources. One speaker, Liz Ryan (found of Human Workplace), believed HR is in the need of a redo and that there are many “bad” HR professional out there.  I wasn’t comfortable going quite that far. Sure, there are some HR people in need of training, but there are many more who are great at what they do. 

You can replay the discussion here or below.   My thanks to Nancy Redd and the entire HuffPostLive staff for their professionalism and invitation.  Hope to do it again soon.