Thursday, January 22, 2009

Five Tips for Dealing with Uncomfortable Office Talk

I would like to welcome Holly McCarthy as our first guest writer. The following article comes from her blog at As you can tell, she writes interesting articles on careers and job searches and this article focuses on office culture.

By Holly McCarthy

One of the unwritten rules of social conduct is that you should never engage people in conversations related to the topics of politics or religion. Some people, however, fail to realize just why we don’t bring these topics up with others, especially in the workplace. These topics can be particularly divisive and can create many problems within an office culture.

Other uncomfortable topics of discussion have to do with finances and business ventures. Oftentimes a co-worker will attempt to engage you in a conversation related to his or her home business. None of these topics are appropriate for the workplace, end of story. What follows is a list of a few tips for dealing with uncomfortable office talk.

Avoid those trying to initiate the discussion.

If at all possible, avoid the people who are trying to discuss divisive issues such as politics or religion. Perhaps these people congregate in a certain part of the office or have lunch together. Do your best to avoid these people when they are discussing these matters, and maintain a professional demeanor around them, avoiding rudeness or confrontation.

Don’t get involved.

If you absolutely cannot avoid being around these people, make sure you don’t encourage their behavior. As the saying goes, silence is golden. After a while, they may begin to get the message loud and clear without you having said anything at all.

Politely excuse yourself.

Again, if you happen to find yourself in a situation where being in contact with these people is unavoidable and you are uncomfortable, politely excuse yourself. If someone wishes to confront you or questions why you are leaving, explain why in a neutral manner. Letting them know that you don’t think it’s appropriate, whether you agree or not, is the main reason for not engaging in the conversation.

Change the subject.

Maybe you really do like the people, but don’t like discussing these sorts of matters at work. Make a joke or try and change the subject. Doing this a few times will let them know that you certainly want to be part of a conversation with them, but on another, less controversial topic.

Notify a supervisor.

If you feel that the conversations are inappropriate and are beginning to feel alienated or harassed, it is time to let someone else know. Many offices and companies forbid discussions related to politics and religion, and trying to drum up business at work is certainly a conflict of interest.

Note from Dale. Again, I want to thank Holly for finding my blog and contacting me. If you would like info on my Workplace Attitudes Test and possibly avoid problems like those Holly discusses please visit

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