Disclosure presents another “too much” behavior that can bedevil women in the workplace, undermining their capacity to be seen as trusted and discreet professionals who carry themselves as leaders. In our experience, women who overdisclose usually do so for one of two reasons. Either they assume that building good relationships and finding common ground requires the sharing of personal information, or they’re convinced
By contrast, men rarely build relationships by exchanging intimacies or dissecting problems. Men are in fact most likely to bond with one another by doing things together, often in highly competitive situations. So a subtle (or not so subtle) one-upmanship often characterizes male bonding. This dynamic leaves no place for the sharing of vulnerabilities.
The difference in male and female bonding styles generally serves women well, making them more likely than men to form close and long-lasting friendships. Many researchers believe that women’s zest for building intimate personal friendships and resilient support networks is one reason women live longer than men and report being happier in virtually every culture, except those in which their autonomy is severely restricted.
But workplace cultural standards around the world have been almost entirely set by men, especially at the leadership level. Trust at work is generally viewed as a matter of competence and reliability rather than frank exchanges about what makes you tick. This is why routine personal disclosure , Authenticity has become a workplace buzzword in recent years, with much talk about the importance of bringing your “real self” to work. The idea is that being fully yourself will free you to be more creative, connect more deeply with colleagues, and find a more passionate point of engagement with your work.
Certainly there’s a degree of truth in this, and pretending you’re someone you’re not is never going to qualify as a good practice. But the relentless emphasis on authenticity can be a trap, blurring boundaries that most organizations continue to honor and enforce even as they sing the praises of authentic engagement. And it’s a trap most likely to ensnare women, who may feel encouraged to abandon qualities of professionalism and discretion in the pursuit of being fully authentic.