Office chitchat guidelines

Editor’s Note: This post is thanks to Cara H. She gave an excellent presentation at Career Day this past weekend and included this excellent information.

You are going to talk to your co-workers. You will spend eight hours a day, five days a week with them for years if you are lucky. To keep the environment positive and keep everyone comfortable, here are some topics to avoid discussing from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.or whenever your usual work hours fall:

  • Your love life. (this includes marriages, divorces, new and old relationships, etc.)
  • Love life troubles. (If you’re following rule one, this shouldn’t be a problem.)
  • Financial issues. (Including: what an item you’re wearing cost, use your judgment here.)
  • Weekend plans. (Especially if they include parties, etc.)
  • Your salary.
  • Health. (see previous post on TMI at work.)
  • That you are looking for a new job.

Good, usually harmless topics to discuss:

  • New home
  • New appliances
  • Home repairs
  • Pets
  • Joining a gym or workout plans
  • Dinner plans (as in what you are cooking, not where you are going.)

Obviously, this list is incomplete and depends more on your work environment than anything else. In some offices, discussing that awesome purse you got for $10 would be appropriate, but discussing your Prada shoes, not so much.

What  would you add to the list?

4 thoughts on “Office chitchat guidelines

  1. Maybe I fall on the TMI side of this argument, but I don’t have a problem discussing many of the things on the “Do Not Discuss” list (within reason) with my co-workers. One of my first questions when I walk in the office Monday morning is how the weekend went and what did you do?

    Salary, in-depth relationship discussions, sure. I wouldn’t discuss those openly. If a single co-worker wants to tell me about the date he/she had this weekend, so be it. Admittedly, I am much more open to making my life public than others. However, with in reason, I don’t have a problem discussion many of these topics with co-workers.

    1. Matt,
      You make some excellent points. I think the most important piece of information to have is what is your office culture? If you are in a culture that shares weekend plans and such, by all means, share! But if you’re in a tight lipped office where sharing is off-limits, know that too. It’s better to err on the side of caution until you know.
      I mentioned in a conversation about this on Twitter that most creative work environments share topics on the don’t list (within reason). It can build a sense of comradery and give you insight into your co-workers lives. One friend on Twitter mentioned that he appreciates knowing his boss was up all night with a sick child because then he knows not to “drop a bomb” that afternoon.

      1. Good points Aurora. I’ve had the fortune of never working in a buttoned-down office environment. Within reason, I’ve had the freedom to discuss pretty much anything I want with my co-workers (decorum and good-taste rules apply here, of course). You bring up a great point about more creative offices being more free with information about themselves. Having not worked in an accounting or lawyer’s office, I’d be willing to bet you are right on the money.

      2. My experience is that any office where the employees “compete” against each other (for example in sales) these rules apply. As do offices where the manager uses fear to lead. Sometimes you have no idea what kind of culture you are getting involved in until it is too late. Other times, you think you are joining a company with a supportive culture, only to have a new person take the reins and change everything.

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