11 Conversation Topics to Avoid at Work

by McKenzie Chapman   Advice  | Building connections  | Work tips  | 

It can be tempting to talk about your personal life or current events at work, but really, you should only be having work conversations at work. Of course, we’re only human and we’ll all veer off into non-work related topics. But there are some discussion topics that should be completely avoided at work.  


1. Gossip  

Not only does gossip hurt other people, if you participate in it you look bad yourself. Gossip is toxic and never contributed anything positive.  


2. Racist or sexist comments or “jokes” 

I feel like I don’t even need to explain this one, but I will. Racist and sexist comments are never appropriate, even outside of work. If you say something racist or sexist at work and think it’s just a joke, here’s a tip: no one thinks your funny and you could get fired, so stop. 


3. Plans to quit 

Just because you have plans to quit, or want to quit, doesn’t mean you actually will. You never know what will happen until you actually leave your job, so don’t talk about it. Who knows, you may end up staying longer than you planned. If your boss catches wind you want to leave, you may find yourself out of a job faster than you planned. 


4. You’re interviewing for another job 

Same goes for looking for another job. If your boss knows you’re looking elsewhere, they might start looking for your replacement too. It’s best to wait until you have a solid plan in place before you discuss your latest job interview at a different company. 


5. Complaining  

Avoid complaining at work. Not only does it bring everyone’s mood down, it’s not productive, and you may be complaining about a person or work in a way that could hurt someone else’s feelings.  


6. Weight  

Weight is a sensitive topic for most of us. It’s best to avoid it. Someone else’s weight is none of your business, and even talking about your own weight is inappropriate.  


7. Unconstructive, mean criticism  

Feedback is important in any workplace. It helps you do better and correct mistakes. However, harsh criticism of someone’s ideas is inappropriate. Be careful how you word your criticism, and make sure it acknowledges someone’s work or idea and provides feedback that offers a solution. Instead think of productive ways to have discussions around the topic that can be helpful. 


8. Your personal life and personal problems 

This may seem obvious, but people do make the mistake of disclosing too much about their personal life at work, and yes, that includes sexual exploits and relationship issues. If you wouldn’t talk about it with your parents or your grandma, please don’t talk about it at work. Don’t discuss your divorce, break up, family death, etc. Even if you feel like you need to vent, work is not the place to do so. If you do vent at work, your coworkers’ and employers’ opinions of you could be changed negatively. You also don’t want to pry in other people’s personal life by asking random questions. 


9. Politics 

In today’s political climate, politics have become more polarizing than ever before. It is almost impossible to change someone’s mind, and discussing controversial topics, like politics and social issues, can often raise tempers. So even if you try to discuss politics with an open mind, you risk causing extreme tension with someone who you’ll have to continue sharing an office with. So it’s best to avoid the topic if you can.  


10. Health problems 

Unfortunately, people will make judgments on your competency at work if you disclose health problems. There may not be any bad intentions behind their judgments-- this is something we all do subconsciously-- but it may negatively affect how people perceive you at work.  


11. Religion 

To some, religion is the most important thing in their life. To others, they may hate religion. Like politics, religion can be an extremely polarizing topic. It’s best to leave your religion out of workplace discussion. This doesn’t mean you can’t reflect privately. It also means you shouldn’t make comments about other people’s religious objects at their desk, or if they take time to pray silently at their desk, etc. It’s not your business and it isn’t affecting your work, so don’t make a comment. 


To avoid any conflicts at work, it’s best to avoid these taboo subjects. Instead of putting your foot in your mouth, try active listening instead. Always listen more than you talk, and you’ll ensure that when you do speak, you’ll be putting your best idea forward. 


Have you ever gotten into hot water for one of these topics at work? What’s your experience been? Share your story on UltiCareer’s survey to help students, or anyone, get to know what your type of job is really like. 

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