Things You Might Keep To Yourself

The folks at Ladders, a career consultancy, shared a recent article called 8 Things Smart People Never Reveal About Themselves At Work. It’s an interesting list, and as much as we want to communicate openly with our colleagues as a way to enhance collaboration, there are some lines it might be best not to cross. The author suggests the following topics to avoid in the workplace, and as you bring new employees in — especially recent grads who have to get used to this new thing called “working”– you may want to share some thoughts like these if you think they are appropriate.

I would not suggest making these out as rules or declaring the topics off-limits, but when you hear them come up among your employees, you may want to at least help them change the topic. The 8 topics (with a short excerpt about each) include:


1. Your political beliefs
People’s political beliefs are too closely tied to their identities to be discussed without incident at work. Disagreeing with someone else’s views can quickly alter their otherwise strong perception of you. Confronting someone’s core values is one of the most insulting things you can do.

2. That you think someone is incompetent
There will always be incompetent people in any workplace, and chances are that everyone knows who they are. If you don’t have the power to help them improve or to fire them, then you have nothing to gain by broadcasting their ineptitude.

3. How much money you make
Your parents may love to hear all about how much you’re pulling in each month, but in the workplace, this only breeds negativity. It’s impossible to allocate salaries with perfect fairness, and revealing yours gives your coworkers a direct measure of comparison.

4. That you hate your job
The last thing anyone wants to hear at work is someone complaining about how much they hate their job. Doing so labels you as a negative person, who is not a team player. This brings down the morale of the group.

5. What you do in the bedroom
Whether your sex life is out of this world or lacking entirely, this information has no place at work. Such comments will get a chuckle from some people, but it makes most uncomfortable, and even offended. Crossing this line will instantly give you a bad reputation.

6. What you think someone else does in the bedroom
A good 111% of the people you work with do not want to know that you bet they’re tigers in the sack. There’s no more surefire way to creep someone out than to let them know that thoughts of their love life have entered your brain.

7. How wild you used to be
Your past can say a lot about you. Just because you did something outlandish or stupid years ago doesn’t mean that people will believe you’ve developed impeccable judgment since then.

8. That you’re job hunting
Once you reveal that you’re planning to leave, you suddenly become a waste of everyone’s time. There’s also the chance that your hunt will be unsuccessful, so it’s best to wait until you’ve found a job before you tell anyone.

If I can add a ninth one, it would be “religion.” (well, unless you work for a church) Much like politics, religion is part of many people’s core identity. Since many discussions about religion end up challenging someone’s fundamental beliefs, it is a topic that might be best to avoid. Plus, of course, it raises the possibility of discrimination. Many years ago my boss told me that he and others in the office were praying for me in their weekly prayer session because I was not “saved.” That made me wonder how it would affect my performance reviews, and no one should ever have to worry about that.

You can read the entire article on the Ladders site, and I recommend you give it a look to see how it relates to the conversations going on in your organization.

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