5 Things Not To Discuss In The Workplace

5 Things Not To Discuss In The Workplace

5 Things Not To Discuss In The Workplace

What we say and how we say it defines who we are.

If we say things that offend people at work or in our businesses, we hurt our co-workers, our employees, our employers, and ourselves.

Great sports teams, great companies, and the military instill beliefs in the purpose of the institution and the process. They create focus. They create commitment, loyalty, and enthusiasm. They create esprit de corps.

The purpose of the workplace is to work.

When team members talk about the job and how to do that job, they become efficient.  Their minds clear.  They create solutions.  They innovate.  They become successful.  They treat obstacles as team opportunities.

Some things that people say create an awareness of differences. These things weaken the bonds in the workplace. They are combustible. They spark fires based in personal beliefs.  They break down the team.

1. Politics has the potential to spark fires.  Have you ever noticed how some people ignite when you mention a political subject?  Often these people will say the same the thing they said the last time the discussion turned to politics.  Their mind goes to exactly the same point where it went before.  There is no discussion.  These people play an audio recording stored in their brain.  Even people who hold the same political belief can misunderstand the point of view of similarly minded people.  They have different memories of the same subject, and these different recordings create separation among people.

2. Religion often has the same effect on people as politics.  For many people, religious discussions immediately create hard feelings.  When mixed with discussions of politics, religion can melt teams completely.

3. Race, ethnicity, and culture are incredibly complicated, divisive topics.  Team members need to have confidence in their value as a member of the team.  Discussing race, ethnicity, or culture creates an awareness of our differences.  These topics connect to our brain in the areas of self-esteem and feelings of self-worth.  In a workplace, where everyone needs to come together to focus on the common good of the team, discussions of race, ethnicity, or culture can create a threatening sense of hierarchy and a false sense of entitlement.

4. The topic of sex has more than one facet.

  • Sexual orientation: Do not discuss sexual orientation in the workplace.
  • Sexual discrimination:  Women still face challenges in getting equal pay and equal opportunity.  However, there are companies like Facebook and Yahoo that have that have shown that a person’s performance is more important to the success of a company than a person’s gender.
  • Sexual harassment: This practice is ugly.  During my thirty years of recruiting, I have known people who have lost their job without warning for sexual harassment.

5. Personal problems make doing a job more difficult.  Discussing your personal problems in the workplace creates risks to you as an employee.  Some companies have the resources to help employees deal with family, financial, mental, substance abuse, and emotional issues.  However, these matters are private.  If a company is going to get involved in these issues, the best companies refer their employees to professionals in those fields.  If you need help with these issues, you might seek professional help before you discuss personal issues at work.

Work is fun.  Work brings meaning to our lives.  In the workplace, we create bonds of loyalty, enthusiasm, and commitment.  We can experience esprit de corps.  We have this experience through focusing on the job and avoiding discussions that separate us from our co-workers.  We can bring power to the workplace through focusing on the job and our similarities and not our differences.

Image: Vladimirova/Flickr

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