I find it ironic, after reading US News and World Reports, “40 Topics You Can’t Discuss at Work,” where they list No-No’s such as: Your blog URL, Your adorable pets, and Your last, or next, vacation, as part of the topics you can’t (key word here) discuss at work – I was left perplexed and confused.
Preface: We all have different work environments, different rules, co-workers, rules of engagement, procedures and ways of interacting. I work at a startup, which is completely different than my friend’s Fortune 500 company – understood, but let’s dive a little deeper into what this means, collectively as work is often where we spend (for better or worse) most of our weekly hours.
Discussing your blog URL – what are we in the stone ages? There are 30 million active blogs, in the United States alone – so having one is not only professional, beneficial and where it’s said, your ideas are your resume, but also natural. I can’t imagine working in a place where people didn’t care who I was, didn’t ask how my vacation to see my family was, or if I mention that my dog is at the vet that it’s considered inappropriate.
What sort of rigid, apprehensive culture are we cultivating?
Culture and people are what make a company. The product, the service is all comes with it, but without rowers, captains and ship-hands, the boat will not move.
I’m sick of hearing these “rules” that you should or shouldn’t do. It’s so blanketed and where the blur of work/life is obvious, let the individual company and culture decide. Hindering doesn’t allow creativity or growth – inversely, I believe it stunts. Are we going to focus on disallowing talking about your vacation or how your children are doing when at work versus the good work you produce, the way your employees and company care about you and in the end, what results you produce?
I polled a group of friends, from around the country and these were the responses:
Occupation: Web Designer | Company Employees: 800
I think it depends on who you’re talking to. With my co-workers, I’ve spoken with them about 90% of the topics. With my boss, maybe about 10%. I think it’s important to maintain a sense of boundaries with your boss…on the same token, I like feeling comfortable enough to joke around and delve into my personal life, but not to a degree where it costs me my integrity as an employee.
Occupation: Registered Operating Room Nurse | Company Employees: City Hospital
As you grow closer to some colleagues, a lot of these topics will come up. I feel like it’s all very dependent on who you’re talking to and where (e. g. lunch room, operating room, off hours with colleagues).
Occupation: Operations at University | Company Employees: 18 people (direct in department)
I work somewhere where gossip happens. And about everything. I’ve easily been in conversations with co-workers about half of these items. Does it bother me? Sometimes. And I go home and feel a little uncomfortable or awkward that I let myself get so deep in the conversation. Other times, as long as I trust the person, it makes me feel a better connection to my colleagues. Because, and to reiterate one of the primary arguments of this article, these are the people you spend the most time with, so friendships, as well as life – happens.
I remember we used to have someone who worked here who always talked about how much he hated it here, how he wanted to quit, and how much he disrespected his authority. Which was quite jarring, considering no one else felt the same way. His negative attitude was not only toxic but viral. Once he started with a negative streak, it would suck others in like a vortex, folks who normally have never had anything to complain about, and then suddenly he had his validation. It was terribly difficult to manage and created a divide among colleagues.
Occupation: High School Teacher | Company Employees: 30-50 High School
I work at a high school and most of what it’s like there is exactly what it’s like under normal social circumstances. If you know the person well enough, or you are their friend, you can discuss whatever you feel comfortable discussing without any negative repercussions. If the person is not your friend, you don’t discuss your penis size. Plain and simple.
The responses range, but an overall point was that each person has discussed many of these topics and inevitably becomes close with co-workers. I too, have discussed about 80-90% of the topics on the “No-No” list with co-workers, all of which, I consider close friends. I wouldn’t blurt out personal information to just everyone I work with, it’s situational. I find no issue with becoming close with co-workers and if you trust them, then it’s another relationship, another friendship, just different circumstance.
What do you think? Where do you draw the line? Do you think the list is extreme?