Do you care to share? : risks and rewards of sharing personal information with colleagues
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With a growing cultural emphasis on authenticity and bringing your “full self” to work, exchanging personal information with colleagues has become commonplace. Social psychological theory generally predicts direct and positive effects of personal sharing on relationship quality, but features unique to work relationships suggest some potential risks. With this dissertation, I draw from theories of work-nonwork boundary management and invisible stigma disclosure to make a case for a focused investigation into personal sharing that resolves current theoretical and empirical inconsistencies. In an initial qualitative study, I find that a wide variety of employees view selectivity – the intentional creation of variation across personal sharing content and targets – as more important than overall volume for garnering more positive competence and warmth evaluations from colleagues. Further, I develop a model in which these interpersonal perceptions are theorized to explain targets’ instrumental and psychosocial support provided to actors who share selectively. After developing and validating a measure for selectivity, I test the full theoretical model in a field study of marketing and communications employees in a Northeastern healthcare company. Results support the basic proposition that selectivity is more consequential to interpersonal evaluations and support than personal sharing volume. Specifically, they suggest that actors who share with task-based selectivity are more likely to be evaluated as competent, whereas those who share with dyad-based selectivity are more likely to be seen as warm, and less likely to experience markers of negative work relationships (task conflict and ostracism) with colleagues. However, target-based selectivity unexpectedly emerges as a risk factor, damaging targets’ perceptions of the actor’s warmth and exacerbating both task and relationship conflict. I do not find associations between actor personal sharing volume and target outcomes. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed, along with some promising avenues for future research.