Top Taboo Topics You Should Never Discuss With Colleagues


The office taboo topics: What you should never discuss with coworkers

People working full-time spend over 8 hours a day with their colleagues. So, it is completely natural that we want to engage in a conversation or even build strong bonds with them. It seems okay to share what is going on in your personal life, your thoughts and feelings about something.

However, not all conversations are acceptable in the workplace. You need to have certain boundaries between your professional and private life. There are taboo topics you should never discuss at work. Such conversations can lead to hurt feelings or even damage your professional reputation and your employment with the company.

In this post, we will give you a list of taboo topics to avoid at all costs. Plus, you will find a list of things that used to be taboo in the office years ago, and how are acceptable.

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What is a taboo topic?

Taboo topics are subjects that should be avoided at work or in any other group of people. Such topics are considered prohibited or offensive. For example, religious discussions or discussing politics are considered taboo because people have strong opinions about them. If someone touches upon such subjects, people may feel uneasy or offended. Here's a list of specific topics to avoid in the office.

Topics to avoid in the office environment

  • Religious views
  • Politics
  • Personal issues
  • Health problems
  • Money
  • Sex
  • Drugs
  • Interviewing for another job
  • Your opinions about boss or coworkers

Personal religious beliefs

As the common etiquette says, discussing religion in the office is not the best idea. This topic is deeply personal for many, so expanding on your religious views or expressing strong opinions about other religions can lead to conflicts. Avoid asking your colleague about their religious views or trying to convert them.

If you congratulate your coworkers with a religious holiday no one else celebrates or start debates about one of the world's religions, it can destroy the atmosphere of community and respect for all members.

Also, avoid discussing race and ethnicity of your colleagues. Employers are interested in maintaining a diverse environment, and such conversations can go off-limits.

Personal issues

Do your kids drive you crazy? Or maybe, the best friend badmouthed you and keeps ignoring your calls? Well, it's best to keep these stories for close friends or your therapist. Sharing personal issues with co-workers can turn you into gossip for the entire office. Moreover, if you have personal troubles, your boss might question your ability to perform your duties well. Restrain yourself from sharing something deeply personal in a work environment.

Health problems

Talking about healthy habits, fitness, yoga, and dieting is okay. However, the situation is different if you want to discuss your health issues at the water cooler. Avoid oversharing your medical conditions, treatment plans, or else. If you need sick leave, ask for it, but don't expand too much on your specific condition. Otherwise, your supervisor might think that your condition is a problem for your job duties. So, don't give them a reason to doubt.

Political views

Your political views are another taboo topic that you shouldn't discuss at work. Political affiliation is another subject people take seriously and are unwilling to change their opinion about. So, don't try to impose your point of view about the political situation to your coworkers. You are unlikely to succeed, while the relationships between the supporters of different parties may become tense. This tip becomes even more topical when the elections are just around the corner.


The rule of thumb is you should never discuss your salary. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, it can violate the company's policy, as most employers do not allow revealing your paycheck and benefits. Secondly, discussing money at the water cooler can lead to conflicts. If you happen to earn more than your coworker and both of you have worked in the company for three years, it can lead to hostility and a toxic work environment. Participation in such conversations is a slippery slope, so it's best to decline them.

Your sex life

This is one of the top taboo topics at work. Sex is an important element of your life - but just like any other personal issues, it's best to keep it off the workplace. Some people might feel embarrassed if you open up about what happens between you and your partner. Moreover, by sharing such private facts, you'll likely become a subject of gossip and this can harm your career in the long run.


If you use drugs for recreation or a medical reason, remember that it is one of the taboo topics at work. Do not discuss your drug abuse in the past or your strong feelings about drugs. People at work have different backgrounds, and can judge your life choices. Like health problems, discuss this topic with those you know well.

Interviewing for another job

Even if you are not super excited about your current job and you work only to pay the bills, your coworkers should never know. If you tell a coworker that you had that interview with a tech company yesterday and your boss finds out, you can end up unemployed in no time. The boss can question your loyalty and you may be asked to leave the organization much earlier – for example, you'll be the number one candidate for dismissal.

However, if you want more responsibility and a promotion, your boss should definitely be aware of that. Don't overshare your ambitious plans too much until you're finally promoted, though.

Your strong feelings about your boss or coworker

The human factor matters. We don't always like the people we work with. However, disliking a colleague sometimes leads to sharing your opinion with other colleagues. By saying things like “He is stupid, I wonder how he is still working here”, or “This company sucks, I can't wait to leave it”, you can spoil the relationships with your colleagues which will negatively reflect on the workplace climate and productivity. Secondly, such statements can poorly reflect on your career and even become the grounding for you to be fired.

To keep your relationships with the boss and coworkers positive, avoid the hot button topics listed above. As they say, speech is silver and silence is gold. Keep your workplace conversations to casual topics, such as the recent sci-fi movie, your favorite Thai food dishes or how yoga changed your life. Otherwise, your own words, especially when you open up about the private things, can be once used against you!

4 Office taboos that are acceptable today

Rules and conventions about what it acceptable in the office and what is not keep evolving. Some workplace traits and attitudes that were frowned upon about 20 years ago are now considered a norm. Social norms change, and people become more understanding and tolerant. Let's look at the office taboos that are a new norm today.

Leaving early.Some time ago staying late in the office was a synonym of productivity. Now, more and more people leave work on time to meet their family at the dinner table. Plus, it is totally acceptable to ask your boss to leave early to attend to a personal issue. Thanks to technology, workplaces become more connected so your productivity won't suffer.

Talking about children.Years ago, if you talked about children or spending time with your family, your coworkers would think that you aren't focused on work enough. Now, it is fine to admit that you have life outside work and take pride of your little ones.

Having a side hustle. As long as your performance at work doesn't suffer, it is okay to have a side job or a personal project. It shows that you are a versatile and ambitious. Some employers even encourage this!

Revealing your personality.Thirty years ago, workplaces were more formal. You had to wear a suit and act in a certain way. Now, it is okay in many companies to wear informal clothes, talk about your extreme hobbies and showcase your personal side.

Top office 5 phrases to stop saying right now

In the workplace, every word matters. Even if you avoid taboo topics, you are probably saying one of these phrases that can ruin your professional image. Here are the phrases to avoid in the office:

  • I'm not paid for this” or “It's not my responsibility”. Let's say one of the team members or even your boss asks you to help on one task while you're already up to your ears in work. By saying “I'm not paid for that” you communicate your unwillingness to contribute to the common goal. If you cannot assist with something, try saying “I can help you with that, but then the urgent report you needed by 5pm would be ready tomorrow”.
  • There's nothing I can do about it”. Even when you need to inform your boss about your failure to fulfill some task assigned, avoid expressing the negative attitude. It describes you as a person who hasn't bothered to try hard enough. Instead, it's better to say something like “Would you mind discussing what can be done under these circumstances?” Forbesrecommends.
  • I think…” or “Maybe, the solution is…”. Let's face the fact that your boss doesn't need any maybe. He needs clear results, and so does your team which works on the project with you. By using weak words, you demonstrate the lack of confidence and devalue your contribution to the result in general. So, put your doubts aside and say something like “Based on the financial reporting, I am confident that…” or “I believe that our product will…”
  • I don't know”. When your boss or coworkers ask you for some advice and receive such an answer, be ready that they will doubt your professionalism. Of course, you don't have to know everything they might ever ask. However, you can always offer to discuss the situation again or to check how the other company acted in similar situation. In other words, offer the solutions, don't be a “no” person.
  • It's not fair!”. What if someone you've worked with at the project was recognized and got a bonus, and you didn't. The situation is unpleasant, however, by moaning and spreading the rumors you won't achieve anything. If you are confident that your contribution was ignored, you can present the facts to your boss or upper management.

Final thoughts

Avoid discussing topics related to politics, religious beliefs, and your personal issues. Thus, you will save your professional image and avoid becoming a gossip for your department. Use safe topics for conversation, such as weather, hobbies, food, and travel.

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Have you ever blurt out about private things at work or spread gossip? Did it lead to any consequences?

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