Limit Inappropriate Conversation At Work

9 Master Tips: Limit Inappropriate Conversation At Work

“Hey, who are you voting for?”

“Are you on Tinder?”

“God bless you!”

“Christians are crazy.”

“Your kids would behave better if you…”

Those are some loaded statements, but they are often similar to comments I hear around me in some shape or form. People often feel like they have the right to say just about anything! Some people even think it’s important to express themselves and their belief systems. I often hear, “It’s a free world, and what about free speech?” during training sessions.

Of course, there are numerous times when we get to express ourselves freely, like at home with our family, in the streets with our friends, or at the voting booth. At work, well, that is a different matter.

Can you say what you want? Yes! Should you? That’s up for debate! We can open our mouths and choose what comes out of it! However, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be consequences. This is true for all of our lives, but it is particularly consequential in the workplace. That is why we should limit inappropriate conversation at work.

No matter where we are, we have to play by the rules set out by our society. For example, you might be racist, but can’t walk around demonstrating and saying hateful things! Even in the streets, hate and discrimination, in any form, is wrong! Besides laws and social expectations, your workplace can establish the norms you agree to by being a part of the team.

Why is my work trying to control what I say?

They aren’t. It’s not about control. You can still choose what you say, but there are consequences to an inappropriate conversation at work. This might come in the form of disciplinary action, training, or even termination. 

Unlike with your personal life, you don’t get to choose who you surround yourself with at work. Will everyone be like-minded and with the same approach? Probably not! Our workplace is filled with various people, beliefs, cultures, opinions, and habits. All are welcome. We have to be more thoughtful and global in our approach.

Dealing with an inappropriate conversation at work makes people feel uncomfortable, distrust you, and even leads to arguments. Who wants to deal with conflict at work? Practically no one. That is why it’s best to avoid topics that can lead us down a road of discrimination, arguments, or have potential intensity.

It keeps the workspace easy, comfortable, and as pleasant as possible. 

01. Politics

Political discussions can very quickly become heated and divisive. Yuck! Even when they start on the same side, it can effortlessly take a turn. Prevent potential conflict by avoiding speaking on political views, candidates, war, and voting, to name a few.

Limit Inappropriate Conversation At Work

02. Religion

We all get to celebrate our own faith and belief systems. That is the joy of democracy. However, speaking about our religion and beliefs can be a sensitive topic that can offend people of different faiths or those who don’t practice religion.

03. Identity

Comments or questions, positive or negative, around someone’s identity, like race, gender, orientation, expression, or age, is a massive no-no at work. Not only can many questions and comments be forms of discrimination and against the law, but they also have no bearing on how to engage with someone in a professional setting. Don’t make identity a core focus on how you engage with others. Treat individuals as individuals and focus on aspects like personality, likes, dislikes, and aspects that vary from person to person.

04. Sex

Sex chat should be left in the bedroom! Any sexual conversations at work are a no-go! It’s clumsy and inappropriate conversation at work, even if you are trying to be humorous. This is a very sensitive topic that can easily offend or lead to discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

Limit Inappropriate Conversation At Work - sex

05. Body & Appearance

You might feel it’s alright, but let’s be mindful of the compliments and comments we make about someone’s body or appearance. Do you like to compliment someone’s outfit, hairstyle, or their level of fitness? “Looking great, Sonya! Have you been working out?” That might be harassing, and it’s unnecessary in a professional setting. If comments are negative about someone’s style, fitness level, or change, we get deeper into the danger zone! “Looks like you went hard on the holiday cakes and cookies this year! Just kidding!”

06. Offensive language or jokes

We can also re-think our vocabulary and humor in general. Avoid using offensive language as it may make us look unprofessional, and others may feel uncomfortable. Swearing is a matter of taste; for some people, it can leave a bad taste in their mouths. Do you want someone evading you because they find your language harsh? The same goes for telling inappropriate jokes! They can easily offend or irritate others. Just leave them for your personal life.

07. Gossip

Gossiping might be fun and easy to do when some scandalous things happen, but they don’t add to a great team environment. Gossiping about colleagues or superiors can create a toxic work environment and damage professional relationships. In the end, if you are spreading rumors, you might be the one everyone is talking about – the office gossip! Manage your reputation by eliminating drama!


08. Personal Finances

Sharing compensation information is essential to guarantee fairness, but this can be tricky. Only some people are going to feel comfortable sharing their personal financial information. If the conversation arises, and someone doesn’t volunteer the information, don’t push it! It can lead to pressure or resentment, depending on how the conversation goes. On top of this, discussing your or someone else’s debt, spending, or personal financial situation is inappropriate conversation at work. Too much info and it can create awkwardness!

09. Personal opinions

We all like to express our opinions freely. However, there is a time and place. Consider relationships! Not everyone wants to hear our thoughts, and unless invited, we shouldn’t feel it is our place to interrupt with an unsolicited opinion. Even then, when we are invited, consider what and how much of our thoughts someone wants to hear. Unfiltered opinions can change someone’s opinion of you, which leads to a poor working relationship!

These are just a few of the hot topics to avoid, but you can add even more. At the end of the day, you get to decide how you want to approach these topics and if you will include them in your workplace conversations. If you take our advice, the risks outweigh the rewards. Talk about other things.

How do you stop an inappropriate conversation at work?

Easy! Just let the person know you aren’t comfortable with the topic and would like to speak on something else. We recommend doing it casually so it doesn’t create any embarrassment. “Ohh, let’s talk about something more fun! Are you watching this season of….” Easy!

Let Oculus design a program around limiting inappropriate conversation at work

Need some help training your staff on the complete list of danger zones at work? Check out our customizable sensitivity training course.

Visit other resources and our sources for more information on this topic:

The Balance Careers
Harvard Business Review
Wikipedia 1


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