Beware of Small Talk

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This is a two-part series on small talk. Part 1 is going to cover the bad. Part 2 is going to cover the good (we’ll be sharing that next week).

There are plenty of occasions for small talk with colleagues, especially when it’s one-on-one. Whether it’s grabbing lunch, sitting in a cab, waiting at the airport gate, there are no shortage of moments to engage in non-work related topics. They make for good opportunities to get to know who you work with right? So why should you be wary of “watercooler” conversations?

Reason #1: You may divulge too much

Often times, especially when you are junior in the ranks, you’re trying to impress. I’m a natural chatty Cathy and will keep talking just to avoid awkward silences. That may lead down the road of “TMI” where you end up sharing personal stories or even worse, opinions on other colleagues, that you may regret sharing in the first place. This situation is likely to happen at happy hours. You never know who’s an ally with who in the workplace so be careful!

Reason #2: Rumours could spread

….and they could come biting you back in the butt. You think you told something to someone confidentially but then others find out and your buddy swore that they weren’t the leak. This happened to me when I was assessing another role. I told a select group of analysts and all of a sudden, two months later, the Managing Director of my group found out. While that didn’t cause any trouble, it made me feel like I was looking for a “mole” within my supposed friend group.

Reason #3: You may offend without knowing it

Personal life and work life can often bleed across lines but there are some topics that should just be on the blacklist. This includes politics and religion. Unless you know for certain that you share the same views with your colleague, it is definitely a danger zone that could cause prolonged tension in the office. I once worked with a colleague who was a hardcore Trump supporter. I didn’t realize it until I went into his office one day. While it shocked me at first, I didn’t even dare to crack jokes about it. I knew that it would strain our working relationship. Pick your battles wisely.

Stay tuned for Part 2!