Relationships at work are inevitable. And, in many cases, good for your career. But even if you’re exchanging friendship bracelets with a colleague one day, it can quickly escalate to cutting up photos and burning personal belongings, plus a really awkward conversation.
What are we talking about? We’re talking about the 5 Corners of The No-Go Workplace Conversation Zone. It’s kind of like the Bermuda Triangle of workplace relationships – only it’s shaped more like a pentagon because it’s made up of these 5 topics:
An EFF supporter, a DA supporter and an ANC supporter walk into a bar. We don’t know how the rest of the joke goes, but we know no one laughs at the end. That’s because politics is a heated topic that almost everyone has strong beliefs about. So if you and your BFF are on opposite sides of the Nkandla debacle, things might not go so well at the office.
You’re a free-loving hippy who believes that the only higher power is a complex exchange of energy and marriage is an antiquated form of ownership formed back when women had no rights. So it’s probably not a good idea to get into an intense religious discussion with your orthodox colleague… You know, the one who has an arranged marriage. With a cousin.
3. Sex life
Maybe you’re getting some. Maybe you’re not. But chances are no one wants to know about it. Not only is your love life a very private topic (do you really want your colleagues to know about that thing you do with your toes?), but people can have very different opinions on what is and isn’t okay in the bedroom. This one can get ugly, quickly. Stay away. Please.
Whether you’re aiming to climb the ranks to senior management or use your position as a stepping stone to get to where you really want to go, sharing your long-term career plans is something you should do with caution. Not only could it be career-limiting for your boss to know you want to be out of there in a year, but it could create some pretty nasty rivalries if you and another colleague are rooting for the same dream position.
Money is a sensitive topic. Especially for those who don’t feel they have enough of it. So talking about the R3m house you just bought in front of someone who struggles to feed her children is a little tactless. And the same goes for those with financial issues – your salary and expenses should be strategically discussed with those on a need-to-know basis.
While there are exceptions to every rule, it’s probably best to avoid approaching these topics unless you are absolutely certain you’re comfortable with the potential outcomes. Bad blood in the office can make for a very awkward work life.