Revised January, 2011
Some people keep their private life private in the workplace -- which can be a blessing. Many workers, however, are forced to work in an environment where they hear about everything from a co-worker's baby-making plans to their estranged relationship with their father.
Talking about such topics might be fine to share over cocktails with your best friend; they are not fine for the workplace.
Because people spend more time at the office with co-workers than anywhere (or anyone) else, some workers have trouble drawing the line between business and friendship, says Susan Solovic, co-founder and CEO of SBTV.com, and author of three books, including 'Reinvent Your Career: Attain the Success You Desire and Deserve.'
"It's a social environment as well as a work environment. However, you must remember: While you can be friendly and develop a good rapport, business is business and friendship is friendship."
These days, your job security is unstable enough as it is. The last thing you need is to make an off-the-cuff remark that gets you fired (or shunned from the likes of your co-workers). To help keep your career on track, here are 10 things you should never say or discuss in the workplace:
1. "That's not my job."
When you boil things down, everyone does things that "aren't their job." If everyone complained that a certain task wasn't in the offer they signed, the labor force would be in more trouble than it already is. If someone asks for your help, take it as a compliment. He or she obviously values your input or thinks your skills would be good fit for the task. Not only will it help earn good office karma (you never know when you'll need help from other colleagues), but it never looks good to only do the bare minimum. And no boss wants to hear those four words!
2. "I don't mind helping you with that." (With a fake smile pasted on your face.)
There's nothing worse than someone who offers to help and then complains about it later. If you take on a task with a smile but don't really want to do it, your help is as good as no help at all. When you work without enthusiasm, it's never your best effort. Plus, don't say you'll do something if you have no intention of actually completing the task, or you'll earn a reputation as an unreliable person. Your colleagues are relying on you, so your decision not to follow through impacts their jobs, too.
3. "Don't tell anyone I said this, but ... "
Anytime you start a sentence with that phrase, you're asking for one thing: The recipient of your knowledge to, indeed, tell someone you said that. If it's really a secret, keep it to yourself. Whether you know someone in the office got pregnant by the mail guy or you found out what the boss makes, you're going to get credit for spreading the news. Plus, if a co-worker is gossiping with you, most likely he or she will gossip about you.
4. "I haven't gotten a raise, EVER."
Since most employers base salary increase on productivity (not longevity), asking for a raise based on how long you've been with the company or how long it's been since your last one will tell your boss only that you want more money -- not that you deserve it. Instead, prove the raise is merited.
5. "I'm so ... stressed out/busy/sick of working here."
Constant complaints about your workload, stress levels or the company will quickly make you the kind of person who never gets invited to lunch. If you don't agree with company policies and procedures, address it through official channels or move on.
6. "I have (insert weird, gross or inappropriate medical condition here)."
Nobody cares about your aches and pains, the weird fungus on your foot, your infertility woes or the bad gas you got from eating Chinese food last night. To your employer, your constant medical issues make you seem like an expensive, high-risk employee. And to your co-workers, you seem like an attention-seeking hypochondriac.
7. "Whom did you vote for?" or "What religion are you?"
The old adage that you shouldn't discuss politics or religion is as true today as ever before. People have strong, passionate views on both topics and you may alienate a co-worker or be viewed negatively based on your views in a way that could impact your career.
8. "I got so trashed last night ..."
It's perfectly fine to have fun after work, but don't brag about your drunken escapades to your boss. The fact that you showed up for work despite still recovering from a massive hangover might be impressive, but it means nothing if you spend the day recounting your activities instead of working. Not to mention, sharing that information makes you look unprofessional and unreliable.
9. "I don't have time for that."
In case you didn't realize, everybody's busy. If your boss asks you to do something, chances are it's not really an option. If your main concern is accomplishing the task on time, be honest and tell that to your boss. Mention how busy your schedule is but that you can accommodate the request if some other projects are rearranged. You'll show that you take each assignment seriously and only want to turn in your best work.
10. "I just bought a $1,000 watch for the boss."
While the spirit of keeping up with the Joneses is alive and well in the workplace, constantly sharing how much you spent on gifts, meals or outings will only have others annoyed. Not only will it seem like you're bragging, but you don't want others speculating on the lifestyle you're living -- or whether you're living beyond your salary bracket.
Next: 10 Worst Work Habits
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