I Always Feel Like... Somebody's Watching Me!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

They're called Personal Problems for a reason

What do you think is good policy for discussing personal problems at work? Do you wait a few weeks before you start revealing info about your family? Is it considered unprofessional to show pictures of your kids to people the first time you meet? Is it ever okay to share it with actual customers?

I might be more reserved than most with sharing personal problems - it's not that I want to be secretive, it's more that I'm worried that other people just might not care. It takes me awhile to really open up with people, especially co-workers, because I hate to mix drama with my work life. Okay, I hate to mix drama with anything. But especially in the place I make my money. But recently, I have met so many people that are totally willing to divulge their worst moments and scary family secrets with not only me, but my (and their) bosses.

I'm not talking about, "Gee, this economy is really tough and I'm just looking to make extra money to catch up on bills." That's honest - that's a good motivator to come to work. I'm talking about, "I need this job because I'm in the middle of a raging custody battle and my first kid is a result of roofies."

That's weird, right?

I once interviewed a woman at an upscale hotel to work in the room service department. She was friendly and cute and I was about to offer her the job. Then she blew it by asking if we checked her credit for employment. (We didn't). She then started ranting about, "My damn ex-husband. He maxed out all of my credit cards and that bastard ruined my credit!" This went on for 10 minutes. First of all, I didn't even mention a credit check. Second, keep it to yourself! Tell a friend, not your interviewer!

Is this just the restaurant industry? Or does anyone have to share an office with a person who talks loudly during personal calls so everyone can hear (and subsequently ask about) all of their problems? I've had co-workers cry to tables about their debts, as if that would increase the tip. I've known other co-workers to tell elaborate sexual stories about cheating on their spouses. It's so uncomfortable for everyone.

Yes, people do these things. And no one has a perfect life. I'm not saying we should work side-by-side and act like robots. I like to vent every now and then about how tired I am or a little family drama. I've cried at work over frustration (with the job itself and life in general) and cried with other people over their own. But could we just ease into it a little? Wait until you know that I'm actually interested. Wait until you can trust me with the story of a miscarriage or divorce. I'll listen and I'll probably be a better friend to you.

The sad thing is, where the hell does this kind of behavior start? Do they not have anyone else to share it with? Or are they just looking for attention and sympathy? I know several people who so strongly identify with their problems - it's ALL they can talk about. They'll tell anyone within 5 minutes the time line of the last decade. "First, this happened to me and then this tragedy struck.. and voila! That's why I'm a disaster!" But I think even those people know to keep their mouths shut when starting a new job. Do your problems make you look competent and motivated?

Am I being mean? I don't judge anyone for their actual problems. God knows I wouldn't like to be judged by my own family's mistakes. But it's the way they're dealing with it - blabbing about it all day long at work. Restaurant not does equal therapist office. If anyone out there agrees with me, what's the worst thing you've ever heard from a coworker?

1 comment:

  1. Here's one for you... I worked at a local 'gym' for women, and really liked it. I got to work out, stretch, and make some cash. I was stretching one day, using the bar, and a woman approached me, asking if I would help her stretch too. I said, sure, start small, and it would be something that would improve over time. So, she proceeds to start stretching, and at the same time, telling me she really needs my help because she was experiencing pain while having sex with her husband... talk about overshare!! I know the customer is always right, but come on!