27 September 2023

Friendly fire: Topics to avoid when chatting in the office

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Travis Bradberry* says that while most people want to get on with their co-workers, there are steps in office friendships that should never be taken.

At work, sharing the right aspects of yourself in the right ways is an art form.

Disclosures that feel like relationship builders in the moment can wind up as obvious no-nos with hindsight.

You can’t build a strong professional network if you don’t open up to your colleagues.

Doing so is tricky, because revealing the wrong things can have a devastating effect on your career.

You must know where the line is and be careful not to cross it, because once you share something, there is no going back.

TalentSmart has tested more than a million people and found that the upper echelons of top performance are filled with people who are high in emotional intelligence.

Emotionally intelligent people are adept at reading others, and this ability shows them what they should and shouldn’t reveal about themselves at work.

They know better than to reveal any of the following.

Your political beliefs:

People’s political beliefs are too closely tied to their identities to be discussed without incident at work.

Disagreeing with someone else’s views can quickly alter their otherwise strong perception of you.

Confronting someone’s core values is one of the most insulting things you can do.

Granted, different people treat politics differently, but asserting your values can alienate some people as quickly as it intrigues others.

People build their lives around their ideals and beliefs, and giving them your two cents is risky.

Be willing to listen to others without inputting anything on your end because all it takes is a disapproving look to start a conflict.

Political opinions are so deeply ingrained in people.

Challenging their views is more likely to get you judged than to change their mind.

That you think someone is incompetent:

There will always be incompetent people the workplace, and chances are that everyone knows who they are.

If you don’t have the power to help them improve or to fire them, then you have nothing to gain by broadcasting their ineptitude.

Announcing your colleague’s incompetence comes across as an insecure attempt to make you look better.

Your callousness will inevitably come back to haunt you in the form of your co-workers’ negative opinions of you.

How much money you make:

Your parents may love to hear all about how much you’re pulling in each month, but in the workplace, this only breeds negativity.

It’s impossible to allocate salaries with perfect fairness, and revealing yours gives your co-workers a direct measure of comparison.

As soon as everyone knows how much you make, everything you do at work is considered against your income.

That you hate your job:

The last thing anyone wants to hear at work is someone complaining about how much they hate their job.

Doing so labels you as a negative person, who is not a team player.

Bosses are quick to catch on to naysayers who drag down morale, and they know that there are always enthusiastic replacements waiting just around the corner.

What you do in the bedroom:

Whether your sex life is out of this world or lacking entirely, this information has no place at work.

Such comments will get a chuckle from some people, but it makes most uncomfortable, and even offended.

Crossing this line will instantly give you a bad reputation.

What you think someone else does in the bedroom:

Most people you work with do not want to know that you bet they’re tigers in the sack.

There’s no more sure-fire way to creep someone out than to let them know that thoughts of their love life have entered your brain.

Anything from speculating on a colleague’s sexual orientation to making an indirect comment like: “Oh, to be a newlywed again.”

These plant a permanent seed in the brains of all who hear it that casts you in a negative light.

Your thoughts are your own. Think whatever you feel is right; just keep it to yourself.

How wild you used to be:

Your past can say a lot about you.

Just because you did something outlandish or stupid years ago doesn’t mean that people will believe you’ve developed impeccable judgment since.

Some behaviour — binge drinking, petty theft, drunk driving and so on — shows everyone you work with that, when push comes to shove, you have poor judgment.

Many political leaders have been elected in spite of their past indiscretions.

However, they have a team of handlers and PR types protecting and spinning their image. You don’t.

That you’re job hunting:

When I was a kid, I told my baseball coach I was quitting in two weeks.

For the next two weeks, I found myself riding the bench.

It got worse when I decided to stay.

I became “the kid who doesn’t even want to be here”.

I was crushed, but it was my own fault; I told him my decision before it was certain.

The same thing happens when you tell people that you’re job hunting.

Once you reveal that you’re planning to leave, you suddenly become a waste of everyone’s time.

There’s also the chance that your hunt will be unsuccessful, so it’s best to wait until you’ve found a job before you tell anyone.

Otherwise, you will end up riding the bench.

Have you seen any of the above cause trouble for people at work?

Are there any others that you would add?

*Travis Bradberry is the co-founder of TalentSmart, a provider of emotional intelligence tests, emotional intelligence training, and emotional intelligence certification. He can be contacted at TalentSmart.com.

This article first appeared on the TalentSmart website.

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