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?

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When your (current or former) boss dies

I received some very unsettling news this morning. My former boss and a man who I greatly respected and considered a mentor died. From what I can gather by talking with a few of my former co-workers, it was unexpected.

I never really thought about how such an event would affect me or my former co-workers. I’m sad to no longer reside within driving distance, so attending the funeral is out of the question. I’ll send a note of condolence to his family, but it still feels like I should do more.

A quick Google search revealed, there’s not much available on this topic (that is serious in nature) and there’s no good protocol to follow. I found this article in The Hill, on what happens to the staff left behind when a member of Congress dies. The main takeaway is, “People would say, ‘Oh I’m sorry your boss died, so where are you going to work next?’ It wasn’t like, ‘Oh my gosh, how are you doing? You lost your mentor.’ And it’s not that they are not sensitive, it’s just that they don’t know. It’s such a unique situation and most people don’t think of the personal side.”

When you work with someone eight hours a day, 40 hours a week for at least 50 weeks a year, you develop a bond and a relationship. It may be purely professional, but it’s still a relationship that has now ended suddenly. Your grief is appropriate, just handle it appropriately.

When you sit down to write the note of condolence to the family, be sure to include a few anecdotes of what made your boss great. I intend to include in my note that “his demand for perfection also allowed room for me to learn from my own mistakes. His open door policy and sense of humor made working for him, in such a high stakes environment, worthwhile. His passing is a great loss to the news industry and to all those who worked for him, but pales in comparison to the loss I know you feel. Please know you are all in my thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”

Here’s the article from TvSpy about my former News Director, Greg Koelfgen.