Topics you should never discuss with your colleagues

Wednesday, May 11th, 2022 00:38 | By

Your day-to-day life might revolve around your colleagues more than around your friends and family. So, it would make sense if one talks about something other than work once in a while. But while you might want to make some friends at work for you to have an easy time, how do you limit what you are likely to share with a colleague at work?

Zahra Chelimo says that your office should be a sacred place where you treat everyone with respect and have boundaries, it shouldn’t be space where you come to rant about your personal life and how you feel about your boss, or your crush.

“This is a place where you spend most of your time and going to an extent of not respecting it by pouring out your problems to others can harm your career,” she says.

Although Zahra has had instances where she has gone out of her way to share one or two personal information about herself, she makes sure she doesn’t overshare what is in her mind.

“My sex life, my marital problems, my family issues are things I keep to myself when talking to my colleagues,” she says.

Although people often mistake her to be a private person, she believes that there are just some topics that shouldn’t be brought up in the office.

Out of bound

While Zahra’s concerns is more on topics that are considered taboo and brought up at places of work. Brian Kiptoo believes that some behaviours should also fall under this category.

“Personally, I consider some things taboo such us sleeping, cutting your nails in your work station and even polluting the air,” he says.

In as much that some of those things could be looked at as normal, Kiptoo believes that it does not auger well for someone to actually do them in the presence of other people. 

“Why can’t someone just be courteous and excuse themselves whenever they want to do something that might not be considerate to other people? What if you end up doing something that will embarrass you?” he poses.

Dr Stephen Asatsa, lecturer of  psychologist at The Catholic University of Eastern Africa says some issues such as your health, sex life, fertility, domestic drama, and menopause are topics that you don’t have to ring up at your workplace.

Unless you work in a clinic that deals with sexual disorders—or your company sells products and services based upon sexual activity, sex is a truly hot-button topic that should  be avoided. 

The science shows that men and women almost never understand each other’s sexual intentions in the same way. For example, researchers in Norway have found that men almost always misinterpret a relationship as sexual when women interpret it as only friendly. Thus, discussions of sex open the doorway to crossing the line and dropping innuendo. That’s not only a misunderstanding waiting to happen, it’s a surefire way to get fired.

You are judged by your words

Conversely, people judge us on our physical adequacy, and behavioural research shows, this extends to how they view our competency. Leaders are seen as more ‘leader like’ when they are viewed as strong and physically healthy. Thus, by induction, over-sharing your medical challenges could potentially have colleagues or superiors viewing you as incompetent and unsuitable for promotion.

However, there are instances where this is different depending on the shared relationship with certain people at work.

“There are those people you might see at work and wouldn’t want to extend a greeting, while there are those that you see every day and might share personal information with because of the support they offer or if you have created rapport and established a close relationship,” he explains.

But while this could be the case, he shares that people should never judge you for not wanting to discuss any of your personal matters at work.

“If you are a private person regardless of the relationship you might have with your colleague, it doesn’t make you uptight. Some people don’t like to talk about certain things and it’s okay,” he adds. 

Political affiliation is another subject people take seriously and are unwilling to change their opinion about. Expressing strong political views, especially when they differ from those of the people in charge, could nix your chances for advancement

On the other hand, Nicoletta Muingai, a marriage therapist says that although discussing your domestic drama might not be a taboo to others, it could be considered one, especially when it strays away from the societal norms. Therefore, revealing your family issues at work isn’t a good idea at all. Not only will you become a hot topic for gossip, but also these issues can question your authority if you are a manager.

“Some domestic details put one in an awkward situation depending on different aspects such as upbringing and culture. Trying to navigate this cultural difference between your team can be difficult, but understanding where everyone is coming from when they react differently when certain topics are brought up is a great way to mitigate the tension,” she says.

She says there should be censorship of certain topics within the office because despite how basic and simple they are, there could be some underlying cultural differences that might implicate your colleagues. 

Asatsa further concurs that some behaviours are unwelcome in work settings. “What if you have your cup of tea right next to you and your neighbour is busy cutting their nails then the clippings land in your drink? Wouldn’t that be inconsiderate? It would be best to just excuse yourself and do it at the right place,” he says.

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