How Much Should You Disclose To Your Intern?



A large part of my social work education and training is centered around professional boundaries and appropriate self-disclosure.  Client confidentiality and privacy are also core elements.

  • Have you struggled with how much about your personal and professional life to share with your intern?
  • Do you wonder how distant is too distant or how close is too close?
  • Are you ever concerned whether you shared something that could damage your professional reputation?


One of my favorite reality television shows is “Undercover Boss”.  One of my greatest concerns with Undercover Boss is that employees seem to always be willing to tell a stranger (whom they have just met) their likes and dislikes of their employer, supervisor, or coworkers. The employees also always shared personal details about their lives – mainly their financial and health struggles. This makes for great television viewing but seriously causes me anxiety. Although I know the show is scripted and edited I am still talking to the employee through my television screen in hoped that they will magically hear and heed my warnings. This type of behavior often backfires in the real workplace where there are no bright lights, cameras, and editors. I often wonder how much is really scripted or whether the blabber mouth employee is working to increase their social media following.


Often the more open or inviting a person seems, the more likeable or trustworthy they become.  Building a team that trusts and supports each other is the goal of every CEO and manager but you don’t want to be known for sharing too much information. Sharing the company’s financial threats can be seen as being transparent or can invoke fear and cause good employees and interns to see work elsewhere. Sharing the intimate details of your Valentine’s Day blind date can make your team extremely uncomfortable or be interpreted as sexual harassment.


Trying to keep your personal and professional lives completely separate may not be the best way to build healthy working relationships either. This behavior may cause you to appear unfriendly, untrustworthy, unapproachable, or uncommitted.


Self-disclosure is a delicate balancing act. When to share, how much to share, how often to share are all precipitated by the purpose of the sharing. Examine your motives and be sure that the reason for disclosure is in the best interest of your intern and ultimately your company. Knowing when to self-disclose is an important skill because it builds strong communication and relationships in the workplace – the know, like, and trust factor. As with most things, you get better at knowing when to self-disclose with practice and time.


Nicki’s Self-Disclosure Articles:



Nicki Sanders, MSW, is a cupcake lover with a passion for self-discovery and career development. She has a strong background in developing and managing interns and successful internship programs. She is an accomplished manager, professor, coach, trainer, and group facilitator who has packaged her Master of Social Work degree and 20 years of diverse work experience into Packaged For Success, a full service training and professional development company.

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