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Five topics you should never discuss at work

Despite the importance of having open friendships with co-workers, here are five topics of conversation that should probably be saved for outside the workplace.
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It’s not surprising that many of us form close personal bonds with the people we work with. The majority of people spend a large portion of their lives at work, so it becomes important to make friends and find ways to talk openly with (at least some of) our colleagues.

Exploring the notion of workplace friendships and openness, a new study of over 1,000 UK employees from job board CV Library found that just over half had at some point discussed their personal lives with co-workers.

However, the survey also revealed that being professional was just as important to UK workers as being open. The vast majority (91 per cent) of respondents admitted that there were certain conversations that should never be had with colleagues.

Five topics you should never discuss at work

(1) Salaries – 67.5 per cent

(2) Office relationships – 65.5 per cent

(3) Your relationships outside of work – 57 per cent

(4) Why someone was let go – 52.9 per cent

(5) Your boss – 47.3 per cent

When asked why these topics of discussion were inappropriate for the workplace, 59 per cent of employees said that they could be seen as unprofessional. Some 22 per cent claimed these topics may cause tension or awkwardness amongst a workforce.

Commenting on the results, managing director at CV Library, Lee Biggins, said that for employers, personal friendships between co-workers was a difficult area to navigate. “While you want to nurture a friendly working environment and encourage staff to get along, you need to make sure you set a good example and lay down some ground rules,” he added.

“While it may seem unnecessary (and potentially impossible) to put a cap on any chatter about your employees’ private lives, if you notice repeat offenders it could be time to take them to one side to discuss what’s going on.

“Negative or unprofessional conversations can cause low morale. Be sure to clearly outline your policies surrounding office gossip, particularly in terms of confidential news within the business. This could be salaries, redundancies or reasons why someone was let go.”

The study found that around one in ten workers believe they should feel able to talk about anything they like with their colleagues, while 35 per cent thought that being able to speak one’s mind was important, even when at work.

Biggins went on to say: “The friends we make at work are understandably important to us. So, it’s not surprising that topics of conversation can turn to our private lives, relationships or office gossip.

“But, while it’s natural that your employees will want to discuss their private lives with their co-workers, this shouldn’t come at the cost of overall productivity, and certainly shouldn’t cause ill-feeling amongst the workforce. Organising team social events or after work activities can be a great way for staff to catch up with one another outside of office hours and can help to boost morale.”

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About Author

Fred Heritage

Fred Heritage is the deputy editor of Real Business. He is the former deputy editor of sister title Business Advice, and has previously worked as a reporter for magazines including the Global Trade Review. Fred has a MA in international conflict studies from Kings College London, and a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent.

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