Question: I like my boss, but he seems to want a more personal relationship while I want to keep it strictly to work. He isn’t so much harassing me, as he seems to over share specifics from his life that should be kept private and have nothing to do with the workplace. Sometimes I feel like he sees me more of someone that owes him, since he shared so much with me. Help! I’d like to keep my job, but I’m a little confused about this relationship. How do I deal with this person?
Answer: Some bosses are very good at oversharing. They will think you then have a deep and meaningful bond because they made you wildly uncomfortable. Some will even attempt to use their new bond with you to make you one of their minions. Did you want to be a minion?
First, resist the urge to share back. This boss may be likely to use any information against you. Perfect a blank look that comes over your face when he goes off topic, and then ask a work related question as soon as he stops talking. Ignore all the body language, facial expressions, and voice tone changes that try and guilt you into joining the share fest. Make sure your facial expressions and body language are polite and as blank as possible. You will need to practice this in a mirror or get a friend to give you feedback.
Don’t get sarcastic or start huffing/sighing/rolling your eyes. Your boss is still the guy in charge and disrespect won’t make him stop. Real behavior change is going to happen when you consistently ignore the sharing in a polite manner and then re-direct immediately. Keep your own behavior and conversation professional.
Do not be tempted to give sympathetic feedback to a boss that constantly overshares. You’ve probably done enough of this already and do not need to feel any further obligation.
Keep remembering; Blank look, no sharing, no sympathy, redirect back to work with a respectful and pleasant tone of voice.