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?

TMI at Work

Comic from:
Some people are great sharers. You will always know what they are thinking and feeling because they will tell you. Usually, I’m one of them. You’ll know where I stand on issues, topics and projects.

Then there are those people who share a little too much. I realize that bonding over ailments is something athletes (professional and recreational) do regularly. “A stress fracture, yikes, I’ve had one of those and here’s my story,” is a fairly common conversation during a run, in that context. Only. But telling me at work about your stomach issues, or other very personal maladies, will make even me uncomfortable.

There’s a great article from the CNN about 13 Things To Keep Private At Work. I emphatically agree with all the points.

Now, for how to address these all too common faux pas. If you notice your co-workers avoiding you or their body language indicates they are uncomfortable (blushing, leaning away, etc.) you might be over sharing. There are different bench marks for different topics. Such as would you tell a total stranger on the metro about your health issue? Would you let your children overhear you talking about your ex-wife that way?

I’ve found it is much better to err on the side of caution and share too little than too much. If the person wants to know more they’ll ask and if you are comfortable sharing, then go ahead. Otherwise keep your mouth shut.