The Psychological Reasons You Overshare With Your Work BFF

The following article includes references to psychological abuse.

The relationships forged between coworkers are unique and unlike those found anywhere else. Each workplace is a distinct social ecosystem with its own challenges, bonds, and overall culture. At work, connections aren't limited to people who have the same political, religious, or world views the way they tend to be in the outside world. You share experiences, inside jokes, and professional achievements that only those within your work bubble can understand, and it feels meaningful.


The longer you work with someone, the more you get to know them. Before you know it, you've created a whole set of memories together. Eventually, you may feel so close to your work bestie that you overshare about your personal life, only to regret it afterward. Don't worry, this is normal human behavior fueled by common psychological motivators. By understanding these motivators, you can become more self-aware and make informed decisions about what to share and what to keep private in your professional relationships.

Support and productivity

Work environments can be challenging for a variety of reasons. The nature of the work itself may be stressful. The company culture might not be ideal, or it may set you up to feel undervalued. The personalities of your coworkers might not mesh well with yours or with each other, creating a tense atmosphere. Finding even one person you can feel connected to and supported by can greatly improve your mood, outlook, and productivity (via Mind Tools).


Before you develop too many connections at work, take time to consider the type of boundaries you would like to set with your colleagues. It is much easier to enforce boundaries that separate your work and home life from the start of a friendship than to backtrack once you have established a precedent of oversharing. As explained by Cleveland Clinic, this includes deciding how much personal information you are comfortable revealing and how involved you want to be in the personal lives of your work friends. 


The workplace is where most people have the best opportunity to be recognized for their skills. No one is going to give you a plaque or a pay raise for how well you wash or stack your dishes at home, and your toddler doesn't care how many degrees you have. However, you are known for your skills, experience, and education in the workplace. If you don't receive much praise or recognition in your daily life, this type of treatment can feel almost addictive and leave you intensely drawn to those who offer it (per Inc. Magazine).


Forming friendships with colleagues who appreciate your professional value to boost your self-esteem is not inherently wrong. Just be sure to ask yourself if the person on the other end of the relationship is gaining anything from playing up your strengths before getting too cozy. Sharing too much with a coworker who has ulterior motives could come back to haunt you. 

Shared experiences

Most long-term friendships are built on a foundation of shared experiences and memories. Even if you don't initially think you're compatible with someone, you can often grow closer to them over time if you share enough distinctive experiences together. When you go through a unique scenario with an individual, you feel a stronger connection to them since they are the only person who can truly understand what happened. According to research published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, this system of joint knowledge and experiences that contributes to the bond between best friends is known as transactive memory.


If you spend a minimum of 40 hours with a coworker each week, it's very likely that you'll share experiences with them that people outside of work won't fully understand. That's why work friendships can often feel more intimate than you expect or intend them to be. Before you know it, you might find yourself sharing personal details with your work confidant that leave you wondering if you've crossed a boundary — or if you forgot to set boundaries in the first place.

Trauma bonding

The impact of friendships formed at work isn't always positive. If you experience abusive behavior at work — especially from someone you look up to professionally — you might feel compelled to connect with them. You could even find yourself defending their behavior to other people, crediting them with your professional growth, and considering them a friend and mentor. This type of workplace relationship is known as a trauma bond, as defined by Psych Central.


A trauma bond can develop in any environment where you're exposed to an abusive individual. When you experience a dynamic where you feel like you can't avoid spending large portions of your time with someone who treats you poorly, you might tell yourself and others that their abusive behavior is for your own good. You may believe that they are training you to be better at your job. As the trauma bond grows, you might place more value on their moments of kindness and build the relationship up in your mind as a form of self-preservation.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.