female employee bringing up a topic at work where it wasn't appropriate and is being reprimanded by others

Many of us spend more time with our co-workers than with our family and friends. Understandably, co-workers enjoy talking about personal matters during breaks and at work functions. Talking at the water cooler is an important part of building relationships with your co-workers. If you’re close to some of your co-workers and spend significant time working together, you may even feel comfortable talking about topics that may seem taboo. However, there are some topics that you should never start at work, or you could find yourself involved in a disciplinary or legal claim. 

5 Topics to Never Start at Work

Workplace banter is an essential part of maintaining relationships with co-workers, but some topics may cross the line. When workplace banter crosses the line into unlawful harassment, you need an experienced lawyer on your side. If you or your co-workers have been subjected to comments that create a hostile work environment, you may have a right to compensation. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation. Below, we will discuss five topics to never start at work. 

1. Politics 

Most of us have heard the mantra that it’s unwise to talk about religion and politics in social settings. Workplace etiquette workers have frequently suggested that employees refrain from discussing politics while at work or social work functions. Making your political beliefs and preferences known can cause significant friction with work relationships. Perhaps your supervisor or manager holds the opposite political beliefs as you do. By openly promoting your political preferences, you may give your manager a reason not to promote you. Discussing politics can also cause a rift between you and your co-workers, even those with whom you enjoy a friendly relationship.

2. Religion

Likewise, discussing religious beliefs in the workplace can be a bad idea. Whether the discussion involves promoting a religious belief or discouraging people from holding religious beliefs, it’s best to avoid this topic’s landmine. Under federal, state, and local laws, employers cannot discriminate based on a person’s religious beliefs. Making repeating disparaging comments about another religion or communicating in a way that some may view as proselytization can rise to the level of discrimination or harassment. People’s religious beliefs are incredibly personal, and they are often connected to strong family or cultural attachments. It’s best to avoid discussions of religion in the workplace.

3. Complaints with Management

Conflicts between leadership and employees are bound to happen. However, if you’re having challenges with your co-workers, upper management, or boss, it’s wise to keep them to yourself. While it can be a relief to vent your frustrations about your manager, doing so can put you in a precarious situation at work. News gets around, and your manager may hear that you are discussing your problems with other co-workers. Those discussions could result in harm to your career. If you’re experiencing a minor issue at work, it’s wise to talk to someone outside your work environment, such as a spouse, friend, or even a therapist. When you have serious issues related to your working environment, it’s best to talk to human resources. If you’re experiencing any type of harassment or unlawful activity in the workplace, discussing the problem with an employment lawyer is your best option.

4. Relationship Problems And Family Issues

It can be difficult to completely separate ourselves from our family challenges when we arrive at work for the day. As tempting as it can be, we don’t recommend discussing your personal family problems with your co-workers. Not only will you violate your family members’ privacy, but it’s possible that your co-workers could share your challenges with other co-workers. If you’re experiencing significant domestic strife, your manager may think that your problems at home will negatively affect your ability to perform well at work. 

Similarly, talking about your personal romantic relationships at work isn’t in your best interest. You may be happy that you found “the one” or that you had an enjoyable time on a date last night, but your co-workers may perceive your discussion as inappropriate. Be sure you don’t discuss any matters of a sexual nature. Doing so could make your co-workers uncomfortable enough to reach out to the human resources department. Additionally, your co-workers may make judgments about your private relationships that could affect your work relationships. Using restraint when discussing new relationships can be helpful down the road. After all, none of us wants to answer questions from co-workers after a difficult break-up.

5. Financial Matters and Expensive Purchases

Discussing money is always risky when you’re in a workplace setting. Discussing your financial hardships with your co-workers can lead your colleagues to assume that you’re hoping for a loan or handout. Your manager may make a judgment about you due to your financial problems. He or she may assume that you shouldn’t move into a higher-level position if you cannot manage your personal finances well. Discussing expensive purchases, you’ve made at work can also be problematic. Co-workers who may not make as much money as you do may feel resentment towards you. Finally, discussing your salary with co-workers is always a bad idea. Doing so can create resentment and hard feelings, so it’s best to keep that information private.

Contact a New York City Employment Lawyer Today

If you feel you’ve experienced inappropriate workplace banter that has risen to the level of sexual harassment, it’s important to speak with a New York City employment lawyer. Local, state, and federal laws prohibit co-workers, managers, and business owners from engaging in sexual harassment. Similarly, employers cannot discriminate based on and employees’ inclusion in a protected class, such as gender, disability, race, or national origin. Contact the experienced New York City employment lawyers at Lipsky Lowe LLP today to schedule your initial consultation.