5 Things You Should Never Discuss With Your Coworkers

Most of us have been guilty of oversharing at the water cooler or confiding in the wrong person at the office—and we can all recount a war story or two about ways our mouths have gotten us into trouble at work. There are certain things you should never, ever discuss with your coworkers, no matter how much you trust them or they feel like your work family. Just like you should avoid discussing sex, religion, or politics over Thanksgiving dinner, some topics have no place in the office break room.

never discuss

1. Your Personal Political Beliefs and Opinions on Controversial Current Events

If we've learned one thing from the past couple of years, it's that about half the country disagrees with us, no matter which "side" we're on. Personal politics have always been a danger zone for office conversation, but in today's polarized environment, they're particularly treacherous. You really don't know who's part of the resistance and who's making America great again. Also, given the very personal nature of today's hot-button topics—like the #MeToo movement—you don't know what firsthand experiences are informing your colleagues' opinions. Proceed with extreme caution when it comes to current events.

2. Your Religious Beliefs

Religion in the workplace is a complicated issue, especially for those who feel called to share their faith. But the office is not the place to hash out the religious conflicts humanity has faced for thousands of years. It is, however, a good place to recognize the diversity of modern American life and the freedom of religion guaranteed by our Bill of Rights. If you're not a churchgoer, you can show respect for your colleagues by not criticizing their religious practices; if you do attend, you can show respect by not proselytizing in the workplace. It's a bit like asking a colleague out on a date: One invitation is acceptable, but persisting after you've been told no is harassment.

3. Your Love Life

It's so tempting to keep your coworkers updated on your Tinder exploits—and some of your long-married coworkers might even relish these details. But for every coworker vicariously living the single life through you, there's another within earshot wishing you would just shut up already. Dating and sex are just too intimate to discuss at the office, and depending on the details you're sharing, doing so could harm your career trajectory. Right or wrong, women in particular still deal with stigmas in this area. Best to keep your private life to yourself so no one can unfairly make your love life an issue in your career growth. Swipe left when it comes to talking about sex at work.

4. Your Salary

It’s not common knowledge, but it’s illegal for employers to forbid or prevent you from discussing your pay. Despite this, it’s not at all uncommon for companies to strongly discourage you from doing so, even going so far as including contract clauses demanding you keep matters of compensation confidential. Despite these commands being unenforceable, it’s wise to think carefully before instigating conversations on wage details with fellow employees. If you’re concerned your salary is not within a market range, you should have a conversation with your immediate supervisor and human resources in which you present independent research backing up your case. It's OK to ask decision makers questions about how your company ensures its salary ranges are on target; it might not be helpful to chat about your raise (or lack thereof) with your colleagues.

5. Your Family Problems

Whether you're struggling with a health issue or your child is having problems at school, confiding in coworkers can create further issues for you. You don't need the added stress of a supervisor on high alert for signs that you're distracted from your job. If you are having a health issue, you want to control the messaging in case you need to apply for FMLA leave. And when it comes to children, keep in mind that much like dating, people have a lot of opinions when it comes to parenting. You don't need to give or receive unsolicited advice.

When you spend 40-plus hours a week with your colleagues, it's natural to start to feel close to coworkers—and some of the longest lasting relationships (platonic and otherwise) do start in the workplace. But you're not going to be that close to every one you work with, so it's best to proceed with discretion when it comes to these five areas of conversation.

Look at it this way: You don't want to know the details of Larry from IT's love life…and he probably doesn't want to know about yours, either.

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