Whether it is the stereotypical water cooler, the coffee machine in the kitchen or leaning over the cubical to talk to a coworker, every workplace has somewhere the employees tend to gather and make conversation. It is wonderful to have somewhere to spend a few minutes enjoying basic human interaction, but the workplace can sometimes seem to run dry when it comes to topics of conversation. There are only so many times you can discuss the weather, weekend plans or how everyone is doing on that big project before you feel like you’re trapped right alongside Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day.” As you are hunting for new topics of conversation, there are few you need to avoid at all costs.
Hot Button IssuesThere is a time and place for civil and open debate about hot button issues. That place is not your office. Discussions of hot button issues can rapidly leave civility behind and cause lingering tension between you and your coworkers. Avoiding seriously controversial subjects also protects you. If your boss or coworkers disagree with your opinion, they can make life very unpleasant for you at work. Your personal opinions should not matter in the slightest when it comes to your actual job, but the sad fact is that there are people who will deliberately choose another candidate for a promotion or raise simply because you happened to be on the opposite side of the gay marriage debate. Leave the discussion of hot button issues for another time and place.
SexUnless you are a gynecologist or urologist who has no choice but to ask about your patients’ sex lives, discussions of sex have no place at work. Do not talk about your sex life, gossip about your coworkers’ or speculate about the sex lives of any clients. Talking about sex in any way, shape or form needs to wait until you are among trusted friends or family members. It seems like this would be obvious, but you would be surprised to learn how many people think it is fine to discuss sex at work. If your best friend works with you and you really need to talk to someone about your sex life, go out for drinks or dinner after work and discuss it then. Otherwise, if the discussion involves genitals in any way, it has no place at work.
Your Boss or ClientsIt does not matter if you have the boss from hell or clients that seem convinced that asking you to spin gold out of straw is a perfectly reasonable request. You cannot badmouth your boss, your clients or your coworkers. The last thing you want is for them to overhear it and call you out on unprofessional conduct. Besides, your boss is unlikely to want to hand you that promotion if they find out you spend your lunch break calling them nasty names. Similarly, a client who finds out you are badmouthing them might well decide to take their business elsewhere, and that will not look good for you at all, especially if your boss finds out why the client left. If you absolutely have to vent to someone about your crazy boss or nut job of a client, save the discussion for your significant other, family members or friends that do not work with you. Even if you have close friends at the office, complaining to them about your boss might put them in an awkward position. Keep the griping behind your teeth until you get home. Then you can scream into a pillow all you want.
Personal TroublesAs a general rule, keeping your personal life out of the office is a good idea. No one expects you to pretend that you are not over the moon about getting married or excited that you are taking a cruise with your new beau, but there is a limit on how much it is appropriate to share with your coworkers. Usually, it is a good idea to draw the line at giving people you work with the details of any problems you are having at home. They might worry that you are will not be focused enough on your work while there are problems in your personal life. They could also end up trying to edge away from you when you start ranting about the terrible things your ex has done while waiting for the coffee to boil.
SalaryOne of most important things to keep to yourself at work is your salary. How much you make is between you, your boss and whoever signs off on the paychecks. The only time the topic should come up is in a confidential meeting with your boss if you are looking for a raise. How much you are paid is not anyone else’s business, and your coworker’s salaries are no concern of yours. Avoid any and all discussion of the topic at all costs.
Over-the-Top AnticsEveryone has that one coworker who simply cannot seem to mind their limits. They keep banging into people at the Christmas party and come to the New Years’ gathering already drunk as a skunk. They are the sort that post pictures on social media of themselves completely off their head and then wonder why everyone is looking at them strangely the next day. Do not be that coworker or let people see you as that coworker. If you over imbibed one night, do not tell everyone on Monday how it took you three tries to get up the stairs to your apartment. Tales of over-the-top antics will not impress your coworkers. Instead, they will be wondering how to slip you the wrong time for the Halloween party in order to avoid you causing a scene.
Job HuntingMost people will hunt for a new job while they are working at another job at least once in their life. When you find yourself doing this, keep it to yourself. Telling people you are job hunting tips them off to the fact that your current job is not your top priority anymore, and they will react accordingly. Resist the urge to confide in friends who work with you as well. Your well-meaning honesty could leave them in a very uncomfortable spot.
It is wonderful to have people you enjoy talking with at work, but there are some conversations that have no place in the office. If you cannot remember what those things are, air on the side of giving out less information rather than more. Otherwise, make sure that the language you use is appropriate for the workplace. If you would not say it in front of your grandmother, it has no place in the office no matter what topic you are discussing.