The office is such a complicated place. Day in and day out, you have to dress up and go into a space you share with lots of other people.
And typically, you do that for eight hours or even more.
Not only that, you’ll have to get along with these other people, or else you’ll spend a huge chunk of your day feeling annoyed or miserable!
I’ve had quite a number of jobs, each of them having a different type of work culture. But I’ve found that the secret to getting along well at the office is to behave appropriately.
Part of that is knowing what to leave at home. It’s all well and good to be friendly and sociable, but it’s also worth discerning which things are okay to share with your mates at work, and which ones are not.
Here are nine things about yourself you don’t need to bring to work:
1) Personal drama
Let me ask you a question: do you really want to be fodder for office gossip?
I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t, right? That’s why it’s smart to keep any personal issues you’ve got going on to yourself.
Maybe you’re going through a divorce. Or you’ve just been betrayed by your best friend.
I know how hard it can be to stay strong and solid when all you want to do is break down in tears or vent about your troubles.
But try to hold it in. Because the reality is, while your coworkers may be friendly, that doesn’t mean you’re friends.
Sharing your personal drama can make them feel uncomfortable. Not only that, but they might think you aren’t capable of performing well because of all the troubles you’ve got on your mind.
You want to keep the personal stuff for the ones you’ve tried and tested – your true friends and family.
2) Intimate details
While we’re on the topic of personal stuff, obviously, your intimate details shouldn’t be discussed, either.
Your love life and sexual orientation (and your monthly period, too, if you’re a woman)…they’re nobody’s business.
I’ll be blunt – those details are just inappropriate. Unless it’s relevant to work policies, like maybe you’re dating a coworker, then just keep them to yourself.
You’re there to work and put your best foot forward; sharing intimate details just breaks down the professional barrier and distracts people from your stellar performance.
3) Health issues
Just like intimate details, health issues are likewise something you don’t need to divulge.
However, this calls for a little more discernment. If your condition is one that can affect your work, then it’s only right to inform HR or your coworkers about it so they don’t jump to the wrong conclusions.
For instance, if you have a hearing problem, it’s so easy for people to think you’re inattentive or even slow.
If you have chronic fatigue or an autoimmune disease that leaves you sluggish, your coworkers might label you “lazy” or “incompetent”.
Mental health issues are especially sensitive and need to be handled delicately.
There are risks for disclosing your health issues at the office, for sure. For one, it could leave you vulnerable to unfair or differential treatment. So weigh the pros and cons carefully.
That said, you shouldn’t be pressured to disclose any information you don’t want to share.
If you really have to, you could even just explain the relevant symptoms without naming the health issue.
The point is, when it comes to this area, you’re in charge. You decide just how much you want to share and keep private.
4) Political opinions
Alright, let’s get into politics. Or maybe not.
Politics is one of those topics that can cause so much division and conflict in the workplace.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen people get into full-blown arguments just because they were on opposite ends of the political spectrum.
As a news junkie and a person with strong political opinions myself, I understand the emotions. I understand the indignation and passion one might feel when challenged with an opposing political stance.
But at the office? That’s just a recipe for disaster.
HR professionals are unanimous in saying that politics in the workplace almost never ends well.
A simple discussion could so easily spiral into fights complete with name-calling and invectives.
The result? Broken coworker relationships and maybe even allegations of discrimination and harassment.
The same goes for…
5) Religious beliefs
Just like politics, religion is intensely polarizing.
You might feel so passionate about your faith and, of course, you’d love for everyone to learn just how much your faith holds you up.
Or why your religion is so much better than Religion X, Y, or Z.
Well, in case you haven’t noticed yet, it’s a diverse world we live in.
Your office will likely have people with wildly different beliefs. Some might not even have any religious beliefs at all (which is a belief in itself).
It all comes down to respect. You might feel good sharing about your faith, but you could be making the others feel uncomfortable, or worse, disrespected.
So, unless you work in a faith-based organization where religious discussion is part of the culture, refrain from discussing religious views.
6) Financial struggles
I once had a coworker who had a habit of moaning and groaning about the state of her finances.
She’d often say she never had enough to pay her bills and complain about how she can’t ever seem to stay on top of her credit card debt. She’d look at other people’s Starbucks cups and make a snarky comment about how wasteful they are.
I mean, I completely understood where she’s coming from. And I sympathize with anyone going through hard times because I’ve had my own share of financial struggles.
But I also have to admit that constant complaining or comments about financial problems make me uncomfortable. Probably because I believe that one’s money matters are one’s own business.
In a professional setting, money talk won’t likely be something your coworkers want to know about, unless they’re busybodies – which should give you even more reason to avoid it!
7) Inappropriate humor
If you’ve been in the workforce for a few years, you’ve probably encountered one or two coworkers who love making inappropriate jokes.
I’m talking about jokes like:
- Sexual innuendos or explicit sexual jokes
- Racial or ethnic jokes
- Gender-based humor
- Homophobic/transphobic jokes
- Religious jokes
- Political jokes
That’s quite a long list, isn’t it? Talk about political correctness!
But that’s reality – as I mentioned earlier, the office is a diverse place filled with people coming from various backgrounds.
What one person considers harmless banter could be deeply offensive or triggering to another, so I’d advise you to err on the side of caution.
Jokes like that might be funny in your personal circle (if they are, though, maybe consider having a different circle?)
But there’s absolutely no place for them in the workplace. Or in any other area of society, for that matter.
If you aren’t careful, you’ll likely offend someone and make them feel demeaned. It goes beyond just undermining your professional relationships; you’re actually creating a hostile environment.
And trust me, that has some serious consequences for you. Legal implications, even.
Ask any manager what traits they’d love to see in employees, and chances are, drive and ambition will be right at the top of the list.
See, being ambitious separates the great from the good. When you’re driven, you have the internal motivation it takes to be the best at what you do.
An overly competitive nature can lead to strained relationships among colleagues. When you’re too focused on outdoing your coworkers, you stop being a teammate, plain and simple.
And that’s not conducive to collaboration, which is a huge aspect of what makes companies thrive and excel.
What else isn’t conducive to collaboration? Negativity. A complaining attitude.
At home, you’re free to be as much of a pessimist as you want to be.
In the office? I hope not.
I’ve had coworkers who forgot to leave their toxic behavior at home. They loved to complain or point out other people’s mistakes (sometimes with a gleeful tone, even).
Obviously, they weren’t exactly the most pleasant people to be around. I would often steer clear of them because I didn’t want that kind of energy around me.
So, don’t be that person everyone avoids. After all, you don’t want to be lonely for eight hours or more!
The secret to being a great coworker is knowing how to strike that balance between being friendly and keeping some aspects of yourself private.
Ultimately, remember that while socializing is a big part of the work life, the more important thing is that you’re there to get the job done.
So whatever you do, be professional and prove to everyone at work that you’re an asset!