When Personal and Professional Worlds Collide Online!

The Old World of Separate Lives

We have been taught for decades that we have different spheres in our lives: personal friends, family, and professional relationships (to name just a few).

We are many things at once:

  • Wife/husband/partner
  • Parent/Grandparent
  • Professional/Employee/Manager/Executive
  • Friend
  • Community member/volunteer


With the Industrial Revolution, our working lives increasingly moved out of the home and into a separated sphere. In the past twenty years, work has ever more frequently moved back into the home through home-based businesses and telecommuting. However, to varying degrees we have attempted to maintain some illusion of our separate roles/identities. (Don’t let the client hear your dog bark or your baby cry!…. heaven forefend they know you have a dog or a child.)


Our Separations are Disappearing

In the past five years, with the advent of social networking those separate identities are being gradually stripped away.


What would happen if your client knew that you enjoyed watching “Glee”? Or what would happen if the mother of your child’s friend knew about that raucous bachelor party you attended last month?


In the past year I have attended numerous breakfasts, dinners, lectures, etc discussing social networking… how to set it up, how to use it, why it can help your business or your life. At every event there are people asking how to keep their personal and professional life separate online.

None of us understands how to navigate in a world where our various spheres both interact and collide.


Embrace Integration & Transparency

My theory… let it happen! You probably can’t avoid it… the spheres of our lives are only increasing in transparency. So, set yourself up with some good guidelines, and then live the ONE LIFE that you have been given to its fullest.


Allow me to suggest four guidelines to navigate this integration:

  1. Be authentic and show integrity – whether in personal interactions or professional those qualities will sing out and be respected.
  2. Be respectful of others – my fifth grade teacher advised our class to never put anything in writing that we wouldn’t want on our tombstone. It’s occasionally a hard lesson to live up to, but it’s a valuable guideline nonetheless.
  3. Allow yourself to be playful and have fun—even your professional colleagues enjoy a good clean laugh sometimes. When did it become taboo to show that you have a good sense of humor and can laugh at something other than the VP’s gaff at the last business meeting?
  4. Embrace transparency—In most cases, your professional relationships will only respect you more when they learn about your volunteer work, your struggle to support your ailing parent, or your ambition to become a top-notch rock climber. Those personal details will create ever more opportunities for conversation and connection… the keys to strengthen any relationship business or personal. 


You have ONE LIFE; live it with honor and integrity. The rest doesn’t matter.

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