Some chat should be left out of the office. No matter how relaxed your work-space is, even among bean bags and rollerskates (a la Larry Page/Sergey Brin), there are no-no’s and for good reason. To avoid landing yourself in trouble, avoid these topics…
Sex and Relationships
Aside from making others feel uncomfortable, this is way off the chat chart. No ones wants to hear about someone else’s love life. A-W-K-W-A-R-D.
Beyond being overly personal, if someone thinks your conversation has an aggressive manner pertaining to this subject or is suggestive in any way, there could be a case of sexual harassment filed against you.
Religion and Politics
Religion is very personal and for good reason. No one wants to feel judged or undermined from overhearing that your beliefs don’t gel with theirs.
When it comes to politics, if it’s your job to report on this then try to stick to the facts and report the coverage fairly. What’s not required is personal opinion and picking sides. Politics can cause more arguments than any other topic and end even the best relationships. When it comes to the workplace, keep it confidential. We vote confidentially and that’s how it should stay in the workspace, confidential.
If you’re sick and you need to leave, obviously excuse yourself. No one tolerates an office vomiter, nor do we want to catch the flu or a cold from you. Likewise, if it’s visible and people will ask if you’re ok, a quick account of “I broke my leg but I am fine” -for the record is ok, although, if it’s that obvious, you probably don’t need to state it.
What this is about is in-details doctor’s office stuff. That rash you’ve had for two weeks, how tired you’re feeling or how your allergies have flared up again. Annoying. Stop it. This could cause colleagues to question whether you’re capable of doing your job if you become the in-office-hypochondriac.
Spouse, kids, cats, cars: leave it out of the loop. This is for friends and family and beyond that: your therapist, (if you need to talk). Work colleagues are not there to witness the highs and lows of family life. This could undermine your authority and blur the lines between professionalism and personal life. There’s no need to take this to a ten but there’s a difference between responding “yes, my husband and I had a nice holiday thank you” and launching into details of the argument you had before you left the house this morning.
In many workplaces, discussing salary/pay can put you in a position of dismissal. What you earn is your business and what your colleagues earn is theirs’. To pry can not only make someone feel uncomfortable but to share with them what you earn can also cause resentment between you. If one person has been with the firm longer than the other, yet their salary is lower, this could lead to co-workers harbouring resentment or ill feeling.
If You Need to Talk
Having said all of this, if you do have an issue that’s affecting your work and you need to tell someone urgently because it’s imperative, any workplace should have an understanding of this. You should be able to voice what is essential to either HR or in a smaller set-up, to your boss.
If you feel that you can’t talk to anyone in your life, at all and know that your issue is an emergency of magnitude, in the UK/Ireland you can phone Samaritans any time, day or night to talk.
‘Samaritans is a registered charity aimed at providing emotional support to anyone in emotional distress, struggling to cope, or at risk of suicide throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland, often through their telephone helpline.’ – Samaritans.