Wisdom about management is hidden sometimes in plain sight, sometimes in a movie and sometimes in a song title. The Tremeloes had a great success with this song in 1967 and although the content of the lyrics is not totally in sync with the purpose of this blog post, the title is.
At the office there is a tendency to share lots of things. How do you strike a balance between being part of the in-crowd and maintaining a professional profile?
When in doubt, silence is golden! If you are unsure if the topic of the water cooler conversation is appropriate, walk away, don’t react, don’t participate. Some topics though are more complicated to navigate. Something as harmless as talking about vacation plans should be safe right? Well only if it is a non controversial vacation. If you are a fanatic nudist I’m not sure if you should explain your vacation plans in detail, the same goes for a vacation as a hunter for big game, also the vacation on one of the most exclusive cruise lines could become an issue.
Discussion of company policy are fine as long as it does not end up in a boss bashing exercise or mutiny against the company’s direction.
We all know that talking about politics, sex, race, religion and other hot topics should be avoided too.
So what can you share with your colleagues without the fear of major battles and trouble ahead?
Remember colleagues in a company are a set of people recruited around a central purpose or skill. You are not friends, you are not family (even if the business is family owned) and you did not choose the others around you to be there. Sharing of work experiences, work related ideas and generally accepted topics as weather and the local sports team should be fine. It has helped me in my career to draw a sharp line between the work life and the family life. The work didn’t know too much about my family life and the family was only vaguely aware of the characters in the office. It made sense for me, the people at work would form opinions on my family life that I may have issues with and for my family to hear all about the regular office battles, it would probably bore them fast and they would need lots of explanations to be able to appreciate the what and why and punchlines from the office stories.
You don’t have to be a total stranger to the colleagues, but providing them with a summary of your non-work life should be enough.
How is this for you? Do you feel you loose out too much if you don’t participate in the water cooler discussion?
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