While you might have a close relationship with your coworkers, some conversations should be avoided at work. If you bring up “hot button” or “controversial” topics in the workplace, it might cause your coworkers to feel uncomfortable and form a negative opinion about you that could affect how you’re perceived at the company overall.
Workplaces, where these hot button topics are routinely discussed could create a negative company culture where some employees are discriminated against or will become uncomfortable with each other. Here are four topics to steer clear of at work.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with discussing religion around the water cooler, the workplace is not an appropriate space for you to push your personal religious beliefs on your coworkers. As long as you’re respectful of everyone’s beliefs, there’s no harm in being open about your own. However, it’s also essential that you tread carefully when broaching the subject of religion at work. Understand that your colleagues may not want to engage in religious conversation, even if they hold beliefs similar to your own. For example, a colleague has announced that they are very sick. It is okay to ask them if they mind you praying for them. However, if they say that religious expression as it relates to them makes them feel uncomfortable, respect that. Avoid discussing topics that might make people uncomfortable or offend them (such as criticizing their faith or belittling their spiritual practices).
We all know discussing politics can make for heated dinner conversations, so it is not a topic you should bring up at the office. People hold strong opinions on both sides of the aisle and are passionate about their stances on issues like gun control, health care, environmental policies, etc. While you don’t have to be best friends with your coworkers, you need to be able to get along, and many arguing over politics is a very quick way to make working together difficult when you disagree. If an argument occurs in front of others at work, it can negatively impact company culture. If your political views have traditionally hurt marginalized people groups, and you’re vocal about those views, some employees within these minority groups may feel uncomfortable expressing their opinions. They might even fear they will not be accepted or even safe around coworkers who hold opposing political stances.
While you may have strong feelings about your party or candidate, don’t try to change coworkers’ views. Maintaining a friendly and professional attitude toward your coworkers, regardless of their political affiliation, is best.
Detailing Sensitive Personal Issues
When it comes to personal problems, the workplace can be a tricky place. Some people feel they are expected to act like everything is okay without ever opening up about issues they’re struggling with. Others might think that when they’re having a bad day at work, it’s normal for them to “dump” all their problems on whoever will listen. While it’s important to let your supervisor know of personal issues if they could affect your job performance, complaining to everyone around you is also not advised as it could lead to a negative perception of you. People may start to question if you’re able to separate your issues enough to perform your job adequately.
Whether you’re dealing with a death in the family, an at-home issue, or some other personal problem interfering with your work, it’s important to tell your supervisor about it. They can help you deal with the issue and figure out how to keep it from affecting your work. You don’t have to go into detail when telling your manager. The easiest way is to say something like, “I have a personal issue involving ______ that I need to take care of.” If you feel comfortable doing so, explain why you need time off. Whatever information you decide to share should be limited only to what is necessary for your boss to understand why you may need time off soon.
It’s normal for some to think of your current job as a stepping-stone to bigger and better things, but, keep these sentiments to yourself. Talking about your ambitions if they lay beyond your current company could land you in a lot of trouble, especially if you’re talking about them in front of your manager. For example, you may feel like your company is holding you back from a promotion and that you want to start looking at different jobs. In this case, you may be right about wanting to look for other opportunities, but it’s best to keep those thoughts to yourself at work.
The best alternative for this topic is to have a conversation with your supervisor about how you see your career growing. This way, there are no surprises if you change jobs, allowing you to create a plan for achieving your goals. For example, if you’re interested in working for a different department within your company, your boss may have some insight into what career paths will help get you there, or they may be able to give you opportunities to get the experience that would make you more competitive at that level.
It can be difficult to avoid discussing “off-limits” topics in the workplace. If you want to remain on good terms with your co-workers, steer clear of religion, politics, and personal issues. These “hot button” topics can cause an adverse reaction between co-workers, damage company morale, and create an environment that does not foster diversity, equity, and inclusion.
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