Getting along with your coworkers is great—they can be wonderful new friends in the real world or, at the very least, they can make your workday a little more pleasant. But being close with your officemates doesn’t necessarily make it okay to talk about your crazy weekend at the water cooler. Here are five conversation topics you should avoid at work.
Talking about how much you make with your coworkers is a huge office don’t. Money is a touchy subject even among friends who don’t work together, and bringing it up with others in your position can get awkward quickly.
“When you are at work chatting with your coworkers, never discuss your salary,” says Samantha Moyer, an admissions counselor at Marymount Manhattan College. “You don't know if you are being compensated differently, and it can lead to resentment either on their part or yours.”
In fact, don’t bring up money with your coworkers at all. Discussing your own financial status can only lead to discomfort if others are not in the same boat. You should even avoid talking about how much something as simple as your new shoes cost—what might seem like a great deal to you might not seem so cheap to a coworker having money troubles. If asked by your work buddies about your salary, personal finances or expenses, it’s best to avoid answering, whether by pretending you don’t remember what you paid for your cute bag or simply saying you would prefer not to discuss your paycheck.
2. Crazy party stories
It’s a lot harder for your coworkers to take you seriously if they know you spent Saturday night puking in the bar bathroom. Even if you work with people your own age, you run the risk of being overheard by your boss or another higher-up when talking about wild weekends at work, which reflects poorly on you.
“You are building a brand for yourself in your career, and you want to keep that brand as clean and pure as possible,” says Marta Steele, partner at PeopleResults, a change and human resources consulting firm.
Similarly, make sure you keep it together when going out for happy hour with your cube-mates or attending office parties by limiting how much you drink, lest you earn yourself a reputation as a sloppy party girl. If your coworkers become friends you socialize with outside of work—or even share an apartment with—make sure you establish ground rules for keeping your personal and professional lives separate. Keep any discussion of booze-fueled escapades out of the office, and mind what you post on social media. Remember that at work, you are coworkers first and friends second. You’ve been hired to perform the tasks required of your job, not Snapchat each other from your separate cubicles.
3. Hurtful office gossip
Under no circumstances should you steal printer paper to compile an office Burn Book.
“Avoid gossiping around the office,” advises Leandra Falotico, a junior accountant at Winthrop-University Hospital. “While you might think that everyone feels the same way about a particular coworker, word travels fast, and you don't want to be associated with negative feelings.”
Speaking critically of the people you work with can keep you from being seen as a team player and cause others to wonder if you say similar things about them behind their backs. This, in turn, creates a hostile work environment that can make doing your job much more difficult, particularly if you need to collaborate with your coworkers in order to accomplish the tasks you’re given. If you simply must vent about the annoying girl in the cube next to yours, save it for your non-work friends and family so that it doesn’t get back to anyone who might have his or her feelings hurt.
In the event that you do get pulled in to a gossipy conversation, don’t contribute to it.
“If you find yourself in the middle of others sharing information that you don’t want to, then be the person quietly listening,” Steele says. “Change the topic or wait for the topic to change, and then jump in.”
4. Religion and politics
Chances are neither subject is related to your line of work, and discussing divisive political issues or matters of faith can lead to resentment between people on different sides.
“There's a stat that to be a fully engaged employee, you need to have a best friend at work. How can you make friends without getting personal? You can't,” says Emily Miethner, president and founder of FindSpark, a career development community for young creatives. “When making friends at work, stick to fun topics like your hobbies, music, food, sports, your neighborhood, movies and other broad topics you can use to connect with people. As always, religion, sex and politics are good topics to avoid, and are better for making enemies than friends.”
If any of these subjects do come up, don’t let it become an in-depth discussion of your personal beliefs.
“It’s okay for coworkers to know your religious and political preferences, but it’s not okay to make any discussions personal,” says expert interview coach Barry Drexler. “Never insult or criticize a colleague for any reason, particularly related to their religious or political views.”
5. Plans to quit your job
Even if you think you can trust your coworkers to keep your plans to give two weeks notice private, it’s best not to broach the subject with them at all until it’s a done deal. You may have misjudged their willingness or ability to keep your secrets, or they could simply slip up in front of your boss. You don’t want word getting out that you’re trying to leave until you’re ready to make that announcement yourself. If your boss knows you’re considering moving on, he or she might make that decision for you and fire you before you’re ready to quit.
“Your boss should be the first to know, but if she or he finds out from your coworkers, then it’s time to immediately speak to him or her and apologize that the information leaked,” Drexler says.
Keep in mind that even if your boss accepts your apology and keeps you on board, this makes for tense office interactions until you do leave on your own terms. If you’re excited about a new job prospect or are thinking about going to grad school, call up your parents or college friends rather than discussing those plans with your cube-mates.
Workplace friendships can be rewarding, but remember that this is your job, not your college dorm. Maintain a high level of professionalism whenever interacting with anyone from your office, and you’ll make your transition into the working world that much smoother.