As we work longer hours at our jobs it can start to feel like we’re LIVING there! We spend more time with our coworkers than we do with anyone other than our partners or families.
As the lines between workplace and home start to blur in our minds, it can be easy to slip into the habit of sharing too much information (TMI) with our workmates — or even worse, our bosses.
It’s natural to want to bond with coworkers and feel a sense of connection. Living in a social-media fueled world has made us all more comfortable about sharing every aspect of our lives.
But sharing too much private information about your life, feelings about your job, and other sensitive subjects can be a breach of workplace etiquette. Your workmates may feel uncomfortable, and it could end up being harmful to your career.
Another thing to consider: workplaces are competitive places. The coworker who you believe is your friend may be aiming for the same promotion that you want. And providing them with personal information they could use against you might help them get it.
Complaining about how tired or stressed out you are, or constantly making excuses at work because of personal issues, will lead supervisors to believe you can’t handle your job. And start assigning career-advancing tasks to other people.
Feeling closer to workmates while staying out of the “TMI Zone,” can be a delicate balancing act. Here are some good conversation etiquette guidelines — and topics to steer clear of — in the workplace:

Money

Talking about money with coworkers is almost always bad form, whether it’s your salary, the price of your house or car, an inheritance you’re expecting, pretty much in any context. Unless someone’s doing a little shopping of their own and asks you what you paid for something inconsequential like an appliance, tech gadget, or item of clothing for comparison, you’re best off steering clear of just about any discussions about money.

Health problems

Sure, everybody catches a cold or a case of the flu every once in a while! But talking about your various ailments or health problems may make workmates uncomfortable. Especially if your descriptions drift into “TMI territory.” Plus, if you get into the habit of using health problems as an excuse for lateness, sub-par work, or other issues, you may develop a reputation for being unreliable.

Your relationships, dating or love life

Talking about your dating life with a close friend from work over cocktails outside of the office is one thing. But in the office, your best bet is to spare your workmates the details of your love or dating life. For one thing, they’re too busy managing their own lives to get too caught up in yours! And everyone has different levels of comfort when it comes to hearing about other peoples’ personal lives. So, being discreet about what you talk about at work is always the best approach for ensuring proper etiquette. And, it should go without saying – you should NEVER talk about sex or your sex life at work! It could get you into hot water with your company’s HR department.

Problems with your spouse, children or parents

Closely related to our advice about talking about relationships and dating, avoid oversharing about tensions or drama within your family. After all, they’ve all got their own family issues to deal with, and they need to “compartmentalize” it in order to perform at work. Make sure you have a good support system of close friends outside of work – or even a counselor – to help you deal with these issues and help you focus on your work when you’re in the office.

Politics

Every etiquette guide of any value will tell you that it’s never a good idea to discuss hot-button issues like politics in mixed company. To avoid hurting feelings and even unnecessary arguments, you’re better off refraining from talking about politics at work.

Religion

See our advice for politics above!

Your career aspirations

It’s perfectly natural to see your current job as a stepping-stone to bigger and better things. But to maintain the trust and goodwill of your coworkers – and especially your managers and supervisors – it’s best to keep those plans to yourself. Bosses aren’t likely to treat you as well if they think you’ve already got one foot out the door. And if you’re hunting for another job, don’t discuss it with your coworkers. And definitely DON’T use your work computer to do it! Companies often monitor everything that goes on in their employees’ work email accounts and company-issued computers.

Your negative feelings about your job or colleagues

We all have things we don’t like about our jobs, and people in the office we’re not fond of, but complaining about them to your colleagues can be harmful to the overall mood and morale of your workplace. And the coworker you’re complaining about might be a close friend or mentor to the person you’re complaining to! And as we all know, gossip spreads fast in offices and could come around to harm your career in unexpected ways.

Your drinking/partying activities outside of work

Sure, every once in awhile, we all have a little too much fun, and maybe drink more than we should. But if you’re the person in the office who comes in every Monday morning boasting about how much you drank, how inebriated you got, and how many wild and inappropriate things you did, it could harm your reputation in ways that will hold you back in your career!

If you’d like to learn more about how to have impeccable etiquette in the office or in other professional settings, be sure to explore our etiquette courses and sign up for one today!