Having a conversation with coworkers is one of the quickest ways to get acquainted. There’s a reason “water cooler talk” is so popular. It can improve productivity, help collaboration, and foster an all-around more positive work environment. However, in any environment, especially a professional one, there are appropriate topics of conversation and some topics that just shouldn’t be mentioned.
Being informed about what topics to avoid discussing will save you from possible disagreements, embarrassments, and even trouble with your company.
I’ve gathered the five different inappropriate work topics you might want to reconsider before bringing them to the table — or the water cooler.
We all have moments where we don’t get along with all our colleagues. However, your other co-workers don’t need to know about these conflicts. Not only is it inappropriate to bring up, but it can also cause more friction if the conversation gets back to that particular person. You might also gain a reputation as a gossip, and you definitely don’t want that. In fact, according to a poll conducted by NPR, people view gossip as one of the most inappropriate work topics. Best to steer clear of it at all costs — you don’t want to be labeled as the annoying coworker no one wants to talk to.
Badmouthing anyone will only make a situation worse than it already is. If you have an issue with someone in the office, try to resolve the tension with the person involved. Gossiping about them doesn’t give a good impression, and won’t help solve the conflict.
If you really can’t talk to the other person just yet, consider venting to your friends outside of work. If you find the issue is genuinely affecting your performance at the office, bring it to the Human Resource Department and see if they can do something about the situation.
Who doesn’t want to hang out with like-minded people, right? But does hanging out with them permit you to talk about political views, too?
Surveys say that roughly 83% of people admitted to having political conversations at work, and almost 17% decided to keep their judgments to themselves. It’s clearly a popular topic of discussion, but that doesn’t mean it’s not controversial or inappropriate.
Politics are a hot-button issue and can cause complications between you and those around you who may not agree with your views. You might come across people who respect your viewpoints, but it could spark up some unnecessary judgments about you afterward.
60% of workers are uncertain if their political views align with those of their coworkers. With that in mind, it’s safe to not talk about politics at all. What if something went south during the discussion? What would you do if it suddenly got heated? Everyone values their own opinion and will want to voice it, which can lead to some tense conversations if there are disagreements.
The same thing goes for religion, a deeply personal topic that doesn’t need to be brought up at work. It could potentially stir up some conflicts, as people around you may feel that it’s opposed to their viewpoints. It can also simply make your coworkers feel uncomfortable.
Not everyone needs to know your political and religious views – better to be safe than sorry, and avoid those talks completely.
- Family Issues
As tempting as it may be, you should avoid bringing up your personal family issues at work. Sure, you may want to have someone to commiserate with, but think about the possible problems it may cause.
Family problems can definitely stir up some professional conflicts. Your coworker doesn’t need to know about the fight you had with your spouse or the feud you have with your second cousin. At the least, it may make your colleague feel uncomfortable (and if that’s the case, they may take the issue to management); at worst, it could trigger something personal and start an altercation.
I understand that most of us just want to have someone who we can count on when all else fails, but best to save these sorts of conversations for friends.
One of the most inappropriate work topics you should avoid bringing up is your financial situation. Unless you mean to discuss the company sales, money should be off the table at all times in the office.
A survey has found that 44% of Americans consider personal finances as the most uncomfortable topic to discuss with others. Additionally, a poll shows that on average, 47% of Americans feel uneasy discussing their credit card debt.
Money is an incredibly personal topic, especially in the workplace. Keep in mind that you are talking to your coworkers, who may or may not make as much as you do. Discussing your finances can foster resentment in those coworkers who may not be earning as much, or who may be struggling more.
Bottom line – avoid discussing money situations altogether.
- Health Problems
Here’s the thing – your coworkers don’t need to know that coffee makes you run back and forth to the toilet. That’s one of the most inappropriate work topics you could bring up.
While you may feel completely comfortable disclosing your health issues, discussing them on a regular basis could potentially affect your casual relationships with your coworkers. No one at the office (except maybe your boss) needs to know about the personal inner workings of your body. And besides that, there are certain health issues your coworkers may not understand or be ready to handle, such as mental health. About 75% of employees struggle with mental health issues, yet 8 out of 10 workers say humiliation and stigma hinder them from seeking help.
Because of the stigma that we obviously need to break regarding mental illness, there are people who are not educated enough, and you don’t need to waste your time at work teaching them.
All of this is not to say you shouldn’t talk to your coworkers or foster relationships with them. Talking about how your weekend went is okay, but just remember that the above topics can be sensitive and considered inappropriate. It may not be a major issue to you, but there are people who just don’t want to engage with their workmates’ issues.
I understand how difficult it is to just stand there and say nothing, especially if you’re having tough moments, but keep in mind that your job or even career could be on the line once you start engaging in these inappropriate work topics. It’s always good to be extra cautious where work is concerned. Sharing too much information with coworkers can do more harm than good.