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In a workplace, no one probably will hold against you what you say in casual chats — at least not formally. But whatever is exchanged with coworkers and supervisors certainly defines their impression of your focus, interest, ambition and future actions.
That is why it is important to keep the sharing to within limits and thus avoid risking your professional image. In fact, some perception can even put the blame on you whenever something goes wrong. For example, if you are having constant family problems, this may be easily be perceived as causing you issues with keeping focus.
Where should you draw the line between being friendly — and not missing out on developing connections with coworkers — and being judged based on your personal life events and views? The answer is complicated and generally based on the corporate culture you are in and the intensity of emotions you associate with any troubles.
Here are a few points to keep in mind:
Signs of instability
What concerns any employer — or team — is how your stability and ability to focus. If you are breaking down in tears while discussing the latest fight with the spouse or even a financial problem, it may be too much to ask the employer to expect you to be focused on work. If you are able to share this at lunch or after work without too much emotion and move on without framing it as a life disaster, you may actually be admired for the strength in handing such a tough situation.
Again, watch for any statements that may indicate that the problem is taking a toll on you emotionally or psychologically. Don’t say, hint or appear suicidal, for example. When it comes to financial problems, be sure not to even joke about crossing the line to get money. And if your life is thrown out of sync, focus on what you still have under control.
Through any career and almost every job, you may have ups and downs. Good moments when the job is fulfilling and others when you can’t stop refreshing an online job board, hoping that a fantastic opportunity presents itself. How you feel about the job day-to-day should not be a topic of discussion with coworkers and supervisors. What you may consider a passing thought could be taken as a complete plan of action at your end to quit.
That doesn’t mean you need to avoid talking about actual problems. But when it comes to day-to-day venting, make sure to not say what you don’t really mean. For example, sharing that you’re ‘fed up and can’t wait to get out of this place’ may seem harmless. But you may be shooting yourself in the foot if the recipient takes your comment seriously and assume you actively are pursuing a new job and won’t consider an advancement opportunity.
It may take some people time to settle into their positions and build a few connections around the office. Once you do, you may be tempted to think of this circle as a trusted group of people with whom you are happy to share thoughts about others. That is a bad — and unprofessional — idea.
For one thing, you simply may be seen as someone who is trying to score points by stabbing others in the back. Even if the situation is serious, your connections around the office may at the very least feel uncomfortable engaging in this type of conversation about others.
In addition, remember badmouthing coworkers isn’t an easy route to promotion. It is unprofessional and destructive. So, if you’re positioning yourself for a leader’s position, you may be undermining the opportunity by engaging.
True or joke?
Your sense of humour may be appreciated by friends and family, but when it comes to the workplace, there a thin line to walk every day in terms of acceptable jokes. Even during downtime, watch out for what your sense of humour may say about your lifestyle and how you take work and life decisions.
Again, although no one will formally hold this against you, it serves as part of your overall image, specifically in terms of professionalism and reliability.
Source: Rania Oteify, Special to Gulf News
The writer, a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, is a Seattle-based editor.