Organizational Culture

5 Topics You Should Never Bring Up At the Office

HR Intervention

Hello, and welcome to another HR Intervention!  I’m Jeff Havens, here to ensure that you never irritate your colleagues so much that they someday lock you in the basement. Working with others can be tricky, since so many other people have the nerve to have different thoughts, habits, attitudes, and behaviors than our own.

What gives? Why doesn’t everyone just do things the way I want them to?!?!

I’m working on a solution to that thorny issue as we speak. But until I can figure out how to turn everyone else in the world into a mindless drone eager to obey my every whim, we’re going to have to figure out how to get along with people.

That’s often very easy. Bringing donuts to work, for example, is almost universally appreciated, as is smiling at others and saying “Good morning!” and re-filling the coffee pot after you’ve taken the last cup. Certain behaviors are designed for success.

But other things are basically designed for trouble. In fact, here are five topics of conversation that are guaranteed to make your coworkers wish that you’d stayed home.


Discussing politics at work will annoy roughly half of the people that you discuss it with. You might be surprised that some of your colleagues are backwards enough to hold different opinions than your own, but the nice thing is that they’ll think the exact same thing about you.

And nothing says ‘teambuilding’ like working with people you constantly argue with about subjects that have nothing to do with your job. Don’t believe me? Start a sentence off with, “Let me tell you what this country needs…” and see how it goes!


This one will annoy roughly all of the people you share it with, since everyone has a slightly different approach to their faith. Have fun!

Personal Medical Drama!

Sometimes people will ask you about a recent operation or visit to the doctor, and if they do, then tell them whatever you think they’ll be interested in.

But if they didn’t ask, you probably shouldn’t bring it up yourself. To make this especially awkward, consider bringing in some endoscopic photos of your most recent medical procedure. Because nothing says off-putting quite like ‘endoscopy.’

Other People’s Medical Issues!

The novice will begin by simply pointing out how sick and/or pregnant a colleague seems to be today. But the true veteran will then go on to offer several fail-safe remedies for whatever it is that said colleague seems to be suffering from.

If you can provide a veiled judgment about someone else’s appearance and give them advice they didn’t ask for, pat yourself on the back.

Cultural Differences!

You probably work with people who come from different backgrounds than you did. If you’re excited to learn more about another part of the world, this can be a great way to build a bridge between you and a colleague.

But if even a tiny part of you is of the opinion that the way you were raised is the only way anyone should ever be raised, then you might want to leave this one alone.

That’s it for today.  Tune in next month for another installment of HR Intervention!

To improve the overall quality of your conversations, check out our guide on building skills in emotional intelligence: 

Emotional Intelligence competency guide

Jeff Havens is a speaker, author, and professional development expert who tackles leadership, generational, and professional development issues with an exceptional blend of content and entertainment. He is a contributing writer to Fast Company, Entrepreneur, BusinessWeek, The Wall Street Journal; and has been featured on CNBC and Fox Business. For more information, or to bring Jeff to your next meeting, call 309-808-0884, email, or visit

Speaker, Author and Professional Development Expert