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Office Talk - Engage or excuse yourself?

Updated: Oct 6, 2019

You are peacefully at work in your cubicle when your coworker invades your space, sitting on your desk and nearly overturning your coffee.

As he (or she) talks about the morning meeting, do you:

a) stop what you're doing and listen, or

b) explain that you are in the middle of a project and ask to talk some other time?

Your answer may reflect your attitude toward office talk, but it should be guided by whether your participation is ethical. Sometimes, office conversations can help employees to process information and find solutions to problems.

Other times, office talk can be damaging to everyone.

Oversharing ...

More than 60% of 514 professional employees recently surveyed indicated they encounter individuals who frequently share too much about themselves. Some are self-centered, narcissistic, and "think you want to know all the details of their lives", according to psychologist Alan Hilfer.

Venting ... According to Yale Professor Amy Wrzesniwski, organization-lovers are often "the first people to become offended" when they think the organization is making wrong decisions. They can become emotional, challenging, and outspoken about their views. Yet organization-lovers can be top performing employees: They are often highly engaged, inspiring, and strong team players who are more likely to work harder than others. Venting their frustrations helps restore a positive attitude to keep them high performing. Research indicated that venting to co-workers can also build camaraderie.

In a nutshell, since guidelines for acceptable office conversation are almost non existent in the contemporary age of openness, personalization, and transparency, you must decide what kinds of office talk are ethical and productive.

Knowing who is approaching you for conversation, why they are approaching you, what they may talk about, and how you make keep the discussion productive and ethical can help you choose whether to engage or excuse yourself.

Source: Organizational Behavior, Pearson

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