Home Careers 12 Things To Never, Ever Tell Coworkers

12 Things To Never, Ever Tell Coworkers

Simi February 4, 2018

Your work environment, your colleagues, and your managers may seem like family, and home, to you. You may love talking and sharing the finer details of your life with people you see, every day. Life is not often an episode of Friends, though. There are many different kinds of working environments. There are often open-plan offices, desks stationed near to each, or small cubicles. Your colleagues probably spend more time, closer to you, than your family would, on any given day.

Men and women, by nature, are social creatures. People have different personalities and working styles. Moira, from accounts, is always popping by to say ‘hi’. Women are, generally, very good at communicating. Ladies can chat, all the time. In any office, conversations are a part of daily life. We share our weekend plans, our recipes for muffins, and, men, too, often talk about their sports teams. Who won the big game, on the weekend? Did you see that last touch down? There is water cooler chit-chat, and, sharing the drama of the latest episode of Game of Thrones.

We are only human, after all, and social creatures. It’s only natural that we will form friendships with our colleagues. Some people meet their future spouses at work. Maybe you and Dave from accounts have decided to move your office flirtation to outside the office. You’ve decided to meet for after work drinks, this Friday.

There is a group of staff going, so technically, it’s not a date. (*Though you have bought yourself a new dress, and you’re ducking out, in your lunch hour, to have your hair done.) In any office, or work environment, there are certain types of conversations that you should never have with your colleagues. Ever.

1. Are You Job Hunting?

It is a good idea to keep absolutely quiet about this. Never, as tempted as you may be, share your goal with your colleagues. Yes, you plant to go somewhere, where you will truly be appreciated, but, until you do, you should not utter a single word. Be as silent as the tomb. The last thing that you want is a conversation to make its way back to management.

Gossip and rumors will spread like wildfire. Even a casual mention to a work ‘friend’ may somehow get back to your boss. Imagine being called in and asked to explain. Avoid awkward conversations and any questions, from anyone, until the deed is done. People are competitive and loyalty is a value that is highly rated. However, your colleagues may throw you under the proverbial bus to score points with management.

Yes, it does get tricky when it comes to references. You may need to be discrete about who you list when it comes to putting down references on your C.V. You don’t want your boss to get calls from recruiters asking about your skills. Avoid listing colleagues, or managers, in your current company. Yes, they may sing your praises, but, you risk your reputation by including current work colleagues in your reference list.

Sometimes, it is unavoidable, but, you should exercise extreme caution and generally keep quiet until you have signed on the proverbial dotted line with another company, and are ready to resign. Until you do resign, consider your job Survivor Company and you are as fake as it may be, a happy, productive, employee. Fake it, until you make it, to a new island.

2. Complain About Your Boss

He, or she, may be the absolute worst person, imaginable. A boss who wields power, and manages to make your life and your colleagues, a living hell. A snake in the grass. A person who reduces grown men to tears. Complaining about your boss is never a good idea.

Your job is your job, and you may be able to approach Human Resources and make a formal complaint about this person. Clearly, this is a risky strategy, too. Your job may be on the line. Depending on the size of the company, and the nature of the complaint, there may be a resolution that can be made, that is amicable, and leads to positive change.

Realistically, your boss outranks you. Depending on the company, other managers, including the human resource division, may be biased towards a more senior employee. It’s not pretty, but, it may be true of many companies. Think carefully about your options.

Letting off steam, at the water-cooler, about your insufferable boss may seem like something reasonable to do. However, people love to gossip and chat and someone may go back to your boss, and tell on you. Yes, it’s grade school, all over again. Your boss may hear that you don’t like him, or her, and things could snowball after that. By the time rumors have come back to him, or her, even a seemingly innocent comment could have been blown out of all proportion.

The Devil may wear Prada, but be sure to keep your lips sealed, and Chanel pout perfectly closed, when it comes to complaining about your boss, or colleagues, at work, bite your tongue. It will hurt you a lot less in the long run.

3. Keep Quiet About Your Finances

Have you won the lottery? Inherited a small fortune from a long lost relative? Are you in debt? Are you on a budget that is tighter than tight? Keeping quiet about your finances is a good idea. Money may be too tight to mention, and perhaps you are doing extra work on the side, to make ends meet. Keep it to yourself.

Money is not a good topic for the workplace. People have different budgets, lifestyles, and expenses. Perhaps you have a situation and you need some advice and know that Dave in accounts could be a great person to chat to. Don’t be tempted. Rather keep your personal life, and finances, just that. Personal.

Dave may be a financial guru and numbers genius, but you don’t want your bad spending habits broadcast to the company. Those collection agents, that have sent you final demand notices, need to be dealt with. Be sure to seek advice from your friends, or professional. Never approach your work colleagues for a loan, either. It may be your last solution and you may be under pressure, but rather speak to financial institutions, and your friends first. Your boss may have an open door policy and be happy to offer you support and wisdom, but it is not a subject that should be discussed at work.

Keep your finances private. Locked down. In a proverbial vault. Your colleagues have their own financial issues, and agendas and they may be understanding and offer support, but, they are the wrong people to turn to. Never have conversations about your personal finances, as pressing as your situation may be, in your workplace. Seek advice elsewhere.

4. Religion

Your Boss is a Jehovah Witness and has invited you many times to come to the weekly meetings, just to hear about his, or her, Church. Jane in HR has invited you to join her Bible Study Group. Religion and the freedom to worship is an entrenched right, however, it is not a subject, for work. You are as entitled to your opinion, as the next person, and feel free to share your views, with outrage and passion, but, to your family and friends.

Respect and tolerance are foundations of a working environment. Companies, especially large multi-nationals, can be culturally and ethnically mixed with a huge range of religions within one organization. Never assume anyone is the same religion as you or at all interested in your views. Keep it for your home, and friends. It’s not polite to ask or question anyone’s religious beliefs, especially in the work environment.

A polite ‘no, thank-you’ will suffice as far as any invitations and conversations to join your colleagues’ religious group meetings. Keep your beliefs to yourself. Feel free to share them if you are asked outright, but, avoid preaching your beliefs, at all costs. Religion is a personal, and private choice that is made by everyone. It can be a topic that divides people and creates friction. Keep yourself as neutral as Switzerland when it comes to speaking about religions.

You are not obligated to share your religious beliefs with anyone, including your company, and colleagues. You may choose to do so if you wish, but, be wary of sharing your views, to anyone at work. What you may see as interesting or a good deed may be viewed in a different light by your colleagues. Rather keep your religious beliefs private, and similarly, respect other people’s beliefs.

5. You Hate your Job

Is every day a soul-destroying and challenging journey to a place which fills you with dread? Perhaps Annie, at reception, shares your pain and offers her support every day. You chat, making coffee, and share your gripes, and issues. You’re stuck in a dead-end job and your life is going nowhere. At least there is Annie and she brightens your day with her equal dislike of working at your company.

In fact, you are two brave soldiers, together, battling through the day in a hostile environment with no chance for promotion, or a brighter future. Who wouldn’t complain about a terrible job like yours? You. That’s who. You should never broadcast your unhappiness about your job, role, or current work environment, at work.

The walls have ears and you never know who is listening. Yes, you may be unhappy and entirely miserable, but you are being paid. To do a job. Large companies and diverse multi-national companies seek to make their employees as happy as they can be. It may be a conversation you can have with your boss or HR, if you need more of a challenge or want to change roles within your company. This may lead to a positive outcome but if all you are doing is complaining about the job you are employed to do, then this could backfire in your face, terribly.

Broadcasting your unhappiness to anyone may lead to an entirely different conversation, altogether. One, in which, you may be asked to resign or leave the company, given how unhappy you are. Your boss and senior managers may look very closely at your work and re-appraise your worth as an employee of the company as a whole. Keep your complaints and gripes about your job to your family and friends. Never share your unhappiness with anyone you work with. Paste on a smile and grin and bare it until you find a company or job that is more rewarding.

6. Politics

You’re a Democrat, through and through, and your Boss is a conservative Republican. The elections are coming up and the water-cooler talk is of nothing else. Who will the next president be? You’re a Hilary fan and your Boss is a Trump supporter. It’s never a good idea to talk about politics. People have their own fixed views and they can be very different to your own. A debate is healthy, but not in the workplace. Even if your company is a tolerant and liberal environment, people tend to get annoyed and see differing views than their own as a challenge or negative. Keep your views to yourself. Diplomacy is required.

It’s not that your personal opinion is unimportant. Perhaps your Boss enjoys a good political debate and likes to push your buttons by asking challenging questions of you. Politics, like religion, is a personal belief and nobody’s business, but yours. Freedom of speech is entrenched in the bill of rights but it’s still not always going to be a good subject for the workplace. It can divide people and cause friction. How liberal is your work environment? Who are your customers? Who are your managers? Are you going to make waves?

As healthy as it is to debate and challenge each other in a private setting, within a company you will need to exercise a higher level of tact. Not everyone may be as tolerant or as sensitive as you. It’s far too easy to take remarks out of context and your seemingly innocent remark about woman and political power may easily be misread by someone. Keep your politics along with religion and money, in your personal vault.

There is a reason that people vote in a secret ballot box. Confidentiality is assured. In the same way, your opinions on politics may be interesting and passionate, but you need to keep those opinions tamed down for a work environment. You really don’t want to start a conversation with someone about politics in anything more than a very general way as it may lead to hostility.

7. Who is Dating Whom?

Most companies have a policy about work relationship – that is, they are often frowned upon. Realistically, relationships can end badly and this can spill over into the workplace. More generally speaking, this restriction is there for the benefit of the company and does not take into account the reality of life. Office conversations often do involve the private lives of colleagues, but they are best avoided if you can.

People are social creatures and spend long hours in their workplace. In fact, some people may speak about their work ‘wife’ or ‘husband.’ Office romances, flirtations, dating, and even affairs, are pretty common in many companies. It can be tempting to want to hear the latest gossip! Is Fiona, from management, seeing Alan, in sales? What about Sally, the new temp, in marketing? You fancy her a lot and she seems to like you, right back. Should you ask her out?

Crossing the line, between your business and your personal life is a very risky move. Think carefully before embarking on any relationships with your colleagues. Your private life will be open for public discussion and scrutiny. People will question your relationship and ability to be neutral when it comes to your partner, or someone you are dating, and any work-related matters. Especially, if you occupy a senior management role, people will be suspect you may favor that person.

In the same way, gossiping about colleagues and their personal lives may come back to haunt you. Conversations and comments about people’s personal lives are just that – personal. It’s better to keep your private opinion to yourself. Yes, you may be outraged that you have been skipped over for promotion and suspect that your colleague is sleeping with the boss, but, unless you are ready to head down to your HR department and make a formal complaint, you are advised to keep quiet. Make your complaint official or share your views to your friends and family.

8. Straight? Gay? Bi? Gender?

Sandy, from PR, had one too many at the last office mixer and drunkenly announced that ‘She kissed a girl, and liked it…’ Now everyone thinks she is a lesbian. She is married, with two small children. But, you never know…. The office is swirling with rumors that she is secretly a lesbian and going to divorce Tom, who will be so shocked.

Are your straight? Are you gay? Your sexual orientation is your business and, yours alone. Similarly, whether Sandy really prefers the company of women is really nobody’s business but hers. People’s sexuality is not a taboo subject at all. However, it is for many people, a private subject that should not be the topic of conversations at the proverbial water-cooler.

It’s not a question of tolerance or respect or about keeping things under wraps, rather, it is a question of privacy. Rather keep your views to yourself when it comes to sexual orientation and gender. Whether you hold traditionally liberal or conservative views on these subjects is immaterial. Rather keep your views to yourself when it comes to your work environment, regardless of how liberal you believe your company is.

The same goes for a person’s gender identity. It is not a public conversation but a private journey that he or she may be on. Darryl from auditing, used to be Sandy, from auditing, and that is entirely Darryl’s business. Whether he is a proudly fully transitioned man or still on his journey to changing his gender, or still looks much more feminine to you is not important. Keep your views to yourself and rather share your opinions outside of the workplace.

9. How Much Is Your Salary? Don’t Show Me The Money

Never, ever, ever, ask someone how much they earn? Recently, some top UK broadcasting salaries were made public. Outrage followed. Women were paid less than men, some staff with paid much higher than others for doing a similar job. The national broadcaster had a lot of explaining to do. Some explanations were offered regarding the discrepancy in numbers.

The broadcaster listed the market-related salaries some of these individuals could have made working in the private field, as well as their experience and value to the company. You may be surprised to hear that you are being paid more for your role than your colleague. Your company may have taken into account your experience and education, and offered you a higher salary than your colleague who is doing the same job as you. Or, it could be the reverse situation. Perhaps you are earning less.

Asking somebody how much they earn is a big taboo subject for the workplace. Your salary is confidential and so is your colleague’s. If you want to know how much your Boss is making, feel free to search online to get an estimate but never ever ask anyone what their salary is.

It is very impolite to do this in western culture. Conversely, in the East, discussing money is not viewed as a taboo subject when it comes to salaries or income. In China and other Asian countries, the cultural beliefs and views money are quite different to the West. It would not be considered impolite for someone to ask you about your salary. Generally speaking, along with religion, politics, and people’s sexual orientation, asking someone about their salary is a big – no. Just don’t do it. Ever. Never.

10. Your Health

Unless you have had to chat to HR about a health issue that is affecting your work, your health is entirely your business. It’s much better to keep your health issues private than chat about them with your work colleagues.

Yes, you have a bladder infection and need to hop to the ladies room every five minutes, but really that is only your business and nobody else’s. Similarly, that Helen from PR is going to see the gynae about a suspected infection is probably something you would prefer not to know. Keep your health issues private and avoid sharing your health issues unless it is absolutely necessary.

Are you asthmatic, or diabetic? Do you have allergies that may be triggered? In these type of cases, you can tell your colleagues, but avoid sharing your daily health issues, unless they are going to affect your work. Similarly, if you have a medical appointment, it is entirely acceptable to share only that. It is your private business about who you are going to see. Your boss doesn’t need to know that you are going to see your psychologist, dentist, or have a smear.

Less is more. Keep it less. If you have a serious medical illness, then, and only then, may it be necessary to inform your HR department. Your health is confidential and sharing your health status may affect your work. It is your decision about how you approach the matter. Generally, your health is your private business and should remain so unless it is going to affect your work. Then, and only then, should it be something that you should share.

11. Your Life Story

You may have had rocky relationships in the past, survived bankruptcy, started an online business, and still do all this while being a single mother of three. You are a hero to your family, to your friends, and community. At work, you’re just Jane, from admin.

It’s not that other people don’t recognize your personal achievements, it’s just that your work colleagues have their own stories and are the main character in theirs. Be judicious and selective about what personal information you choose to share in the work environment. What you may be proud of and can’t wait to share with other people, they may simply find without sounding terrible harsh and irrelevant.

Yes, your work colleagues will become a part of your broader social network and you may make good friends but your personal life story will not enthrall them in the same way as your close circle. Rather keep your personal history to yourself. You may choose to share some of your life history with your colleagues outside of work but be selective about who you share to and what you choose to share.

It’s far too easy for people to exaggerate or embellish further on what you share. Before you know it, HR may be calling you in to have a discussion with you about your work ethic, and the time you spend outside of work on another business. Rather keep your life story to yourself, friends, and family.

12. Are You Getting Divorced, or, Having Marriage Counseling?

Like your health status, the status of your marriage is private. It is nobody else’s business but yours, and of course, your spouse’s. Yes, you may have been arriving at work with bags under your eyes and been off with ‘food poisoning’, three times over the past month, but that does not matter. Sharing your marital woes invites disaster.

Your personal life and the status of your relationships is just that. Personal. Sharing your problems with colleagues may be something that you are sorely tempted to do, especially if you need emotional support. However, this is never a good idea. Yes, your colleagues care about you and wish you all the best for both of you, but there is a boundary that needs to be observed between your personal life, and your work life. As difficult as it may be to get through the day and to work, that is exactly what you need to do. Do not talk about your problems at work. Your work colleagues are not the right support for you, either. Rather talk to your friends, your family, priest, or professionals.

It’s not that your work colleagues don’t care or won’t listen, it’s just that their priorities are not the same as yours. Rather take time off if you need to and than come to work if you are not coping. Your colleagues may offer you the wrong advice or worse still, tell you to divorce or leave your husband, or, wife. Well-meaning advice from colleagues may also lead to future awkwardness.

Sandra, from marketing, confesses that she thinks that you should definitely divorce your spouse and then lists the reasons why she found him, or her, annoying, at the last work Christmas party. Her candor, though well intended, could compromise your working relationship and that is the main difference to remain aware of. Work relationships are just that, and you may compromise them by sharing your personal life with your colleagues. You may mean well, but the end result may be disastrous. Rather keep your private life strictly private.