What Not to Say to Co-Workers

what not to say to co-workers

What not to say to co-workers is a topic that I thought of several months ago when I was writing up a list of blog post ideas. I jotted down a bunch of points under the title but never turned them into a post because I thought it might be viewed as old fashion and out-of-date.

But today while having lunch I thought that it might be a fun post to write because it will be interesting to see which points people agree with and which they disagree with based on their experiences.

Obviously it is important to build strong working relationships with your co-workers no matter where you work. And building those strong relationships can take time.

After putting all that effort into building good relationships with your fellow employees the last thing you want to do is to jeopardize any of those relationships by talking about the wrong things.

We all know that every work environment is different. While one person could be working in retail, another could be working as a chef, and still others could be working in corporate offices.

As well, what goes on in work environments these days is different then what was happening 20 years ago.

Add to that the fact that what is frowned upon in one work environment may be fair game in another location.

Okay, here are some guidelines on what not to say to co-workers.

Intimate Relationships

Don’t talk about your intimate relationships. Don’t tell your co-workers about your sexual encounters with your significant other, or your best friend’s mother, or the new hot girl in accounting.


Don’t gossip. One of the things that happened over and over again in many of the corporate offices that I worked in was office gossip. Many people think that the best way to get to know their co-workers is through office gossip.

I think they couldn’t be more wrong. You can quickly create a bad image of yourself by participating in gossip. While it may seem fun and harmless in the beginning, it can quickly create big problems.

People hear you gossip and they remember that you like to gossip. Some even go so far as to form opinions around how good of an employee you are based on the gossip they hear you spreading versus the actual work that you get done.

Might be Pregnant - Might Not Be

Never ask a woman when she is due unless you are absolutely sure you are right.


Don’t talk about all the parties you attended on the weekend and how you drank gallons of beer and did drugs for 10 hours straight.

Personal Problems

Don’t whine about your personal problems on a regular and on-going basis. Everyone has stuff going on in their lives.

While you may feel that some of your co-workers have become your best friends you never know what the future holds and how things can come back to haunt you until the first time it happens to you.


Don’t discuss your paycheck. This is typically a work place policy, but again every place is different. I would be quiet, just to be safe.


Don’t talk about your personal finances with your co-workers unless you work with financial advisors and it seems appropriate to discuss your personal finances with them.

Religion or Cultural Beliefs

Don’t talk about religious beliefs or different cultural beliefs. Work environments consist of different people from all over the world and it is important to keep that in mind when you speak.

While your co-workers may smile or even laugh as you speak about different religions or different cultures, these things may actually make them feel quite uncomfortable.


Don’t vent to someone in your workplace about someone else in your workplace that you are having difficulties with. Again, some how, some way, it will come back to bite you in the ass. Trust me!


Don’t toss out negative jokes about management or other co-workers. Just because you think it is funny doesn’t mean anyone else does. While everyone may laugh at the time, they may just be laughing because they now feel uncomfortable around you.


Don’t swear at someone that you work with. While you may just be speaking to the person seated next to you, others may overhear you and may take offence.

Keep in mind that while many work environments can get quite stressful at times, for whatever reasons, talking about certain things and making co-workers feel uncomfortable will only add to the stress.


    • Michelle

      Michelle 05/29/2012 6:28 a.m. #

      Definitely agree with this list. I'm the youngest one at my firm, so I always need to remember these, especially not gossiping!

    • Budget & the Beach

      Budget & the Beach 05/29/2012 8:29 a.m. #

      Definitely agree with the list and have seen all of that when I worked in an office. Now I work from home by myself and love it. I can usually avoid just about all those things. The one thing I would add is that we shouldn't gossip...anywhere! :)

    • Crystal Evanisky

      Crystal Evanisky 05/29/2012 9:03 a.m. #

      great suggestions. i agree with all of them. while we all want to know whats going on with each other, delving into the personal problems day after day only wears people out and will make them want to avoid you. its terrible but like you said, we all have stuff going on in our lives and I can't use all my energy to fight your battles. Great post.

    • Emily @ evolvingPF

      Emily @ evolvingPF 05/29/2012 9:39 a.m. #

      I guess it sort of depends if you consider your coworkers friends. I work in a lab with many international students and postdocs and we compare cultures and even religious practices regularly. They want to understand more about the culture they currently live in and enjoy telling me about how things are "back home." I only do this with people I've been close to for at least a year or two, though. Also, we are very open about what we are paid because we're all paid according to the same structure. I have also vented and been vented to when work or relations with our boss have gotten very frustrating, and it's never "come back" to me because I only do so with my closest coworker-friends. Actually, I could go down this list and pretty much say that I have participated in just about every one of these activities at one time or another (except the last two). I guess because we're still students or recent students we don't act very professionally?

    • Kathleen @ Frugal Portland

      Kathleen @ Frugal Portland 05/29/2012 3:50 p.m. #

      I work in an office of five, so we pretty much break all of these rules!

    • Anthony Thompson

      Anthony Thompson 05/29/2012 4:51 p.m. #

      Very nice work, Sicorra! Workplace is very important. It not only ensures job security, but also creates and strengthens worker relationships. Knowing what to say and what not to say to co-workers plays a major part in how well employees get along with one another.

      As much as I hate to admit it, I'm guilty of having committed a few of these mistakes. Boy, am I glad that I'm not that guy anymore.

      I'm so happy that you finally took the time to write and share this these tips and ideas, and I hope in all honesty that more people take the time to read it.

    • From Shopping to Saving

      From Shopping to Saving 05/29/2012 5:09 p.m. #

      I like this list as a general "what not to say" guide especially if you are new or unsure of what the atmosphere is like at work.

      I think that circumstances change and you don't have to limit yourself to this list, especially when it comes to different coworkers. Sometimes you form a different type of relationship - a friendship, with a co-worker and you end up becoming really close! This has happened to me quite a few times, and we do not hold back with some of these topics of course.

      I think these are great tips for talking to your boss and superiors though!

    • mycanuckbuck

      mycanuckbuck 05/29/2012 5:53 p.m. #

      Excellent list! I am so with you on the pregnant one - somehow, a senior director confused me with a woman who was 8 months pregnant. I'm carrying a few extra pounds, but sure as heck don't look 8 months pregnant!

    • Katie

      Katie 05/29/2012 6:45 p.m. #

      My work environments are pretty laid back so swearing and joking usually go over fine. However I cannot stand hearing coworkers gossip. I also hate when people discuss their paychecks, that's a big no no.

    • LifeInTransition

      LifeInTransition 05/30/2012 1:45 p.m. #

      I think this is a good general list for when you're starting a new job. I think once you have waded out the general atmoshere, you can throw out some of the rules about what you should and shouldn't talk about. I've become close with several of my co-workers, so I'll talk to the about more personal stuff.

    • AverageJoe

      AverageJoe 05/30/2012 3:38 p.m. #

      Yeah...the "when's the baby due?" line isn't a good conversation starter when the answer is "what baby?"

      I agree with all of these. If you break these rules the office gossip turns YOU into a whiner, slut, crude, inconsiderate, gossipy person.

      Keep it light and you'll be in good shape.

    • femmefrugality

      femmefrugality 05/30/2012 9:16 p.m. #

      This is such a great post! I agree with all of them and would add politics. I NEVER ask anyone when they're due...even if their beach-ball sized stomach is hard as a rock. Too risky!

    • jefferson

      jefferson 05/31/2012 6:05 a.m. #

      i love my current team *because* we are all so comfortable with each other that there really are no rules.. but it certainly wasn't always this way.

      i especially agree about the "pregnancy" and the "swearing" one.. you can quickly make an enemy at the office if you say the wrong thing to the wrong person.

      politics can be pretty divisive as well..

    • Dee

      Dee 06/01/2012 1:51 p.m. #

      I love this list because I am often wondering about what topics are appropriate for work and to whom can you talk to. I am pretty much an open person and only restrict when I really don't know someone.

      I am currently in the process of buying a home and my boss wanted to give me some advice about negotiating price, we then got into a conversation about affordability and I wasn't comfortable with that. Although his intentions were good, people in general handle their finances differently because it's personal and it would be a shame for me to provide an opportunity for him to form an opinion about me based on that difference. I get it now!

      It's such a challenge to keep conversations general and safe, especially when it's not your personality...

Comments are closed.