Tuesday, October 4, 2011

5 Things Your Colleagues Really Don't Want to Know

People at work often socialize. Socializing at work is good for our health, studies reveal, and may even help us live longer.

It's fun to talk Fantasy Football or the latest music or even why anyone cares what the Kardashians do. But there are times when, I believe, socializing at work takes a twisted turn. When comments become enough to not only hurt our health, but perhaps cause us to die of some terrible affliction. Like boredom. Or narcissism overload.

So today I'm going to give some guidelines about socializing at work. Here are some things to avoid if you don't want to be the cause of health problems for co-workers:

1. Your hobbies. It's great that you like to spin the hair from your Golden Retriever into yarn that you then turn into sweaters for sale on eBay. Great. Have fun with that. But I don't want to hear ad nauseum about your technique or how ticks on the dog have been a challenge this year. Mentioning it once a week for a few minutes is fine. But let's not have the tick update at lunch, please.

2. Your trivia knowledge. While it's cool that you know every song ever recorded by The Grateful Dead, all the band's biographies and the concert dates played in 1989, it's not something I revel in knowing on a daily basis. Save your knowledge for Trivial Pursuit or Jeopardy. Alex Trebek will be impressed.

3. Your kids. Kids are great. Have a couple of my own. But it gets a little old to get hourly updates on Johnny's potty training progress or how Lisa is a starter this year (again) for the school's basketball team. Those without kids will find these kinds of conversations boring in the extreme, while everyone else just gets tired of you sending up a flare whenever Johnny wakes up with a dry diaper.

4. Technology. Who doesn't want to dish about the latest gizmo from Apple? That can be loads of fun, but it can also get to be a real turnoff when you dominate a conversation with enough acronyms that people feel drenched in alphabet soup. Most of your colleagues don't consider your detailed analysis of how the iPad could be improved to be fascinating.

5. Complaints. There's a place for whining at work. It's the glue that holds us all together with an "us against them" mentality. But don't take it so far that you visibly see people sag in your presence. Some good-natured bitching is the ticket -- cut it off after a few minutes and move on to something more interesting. Like how you found a new bakery that has chocolate chip cookies the size of your head. Now that's something worth discussing.

What other topics should we be careful about discussing at work?



Andrew G.R. said...

Of course politics and religion are the no-brainers to stay away from. I've also found way too many people talking at great lengths about food..."eat this" "eat that" "gluten free" blahblahblah! I think more folks should keep their dietary habits to themselves.

Anita said...

Amen....I don't want to hear what I'm eating will kill me. Just let me enjoy my pastrami sandwich and brownie, and I will be a happy camper.

CareerORama said...

Nice list but a lot depends on the work/culture context. Religion is always a good one to avoid. Basically, avoid talking about the same thing over and over and over - moderation is great here.

RoseAG said...

Complaints about management!

My workplace is a mix of contractors and gov't employees. The contractors vote with their feet is they get disgusted with management. The gov't employees, tied to their jobs for life, complain, usually to the contractors.

I may agree with their complaints but I don't want to get involved!

Anita said...

Maybe we should begin our conversations at work with: "Did I ever tell you about..." so that gives someone a chance to say: YES!
And then we can move onto something else!


Anita said...

I agree with you...and once you go down that road you're caught up in an endless cycle of whining and who knows when the boss might overhear? It's a good policy just to walk away or pick up the phone when that kind of talk starts.