Taking it Personnel-ly??

What's appropriate work conversation?

During the course of our lives, we have to be able to get along with people we don’t necessarily like.  It happens every day of our lives.  From the time we’re in school and a kid makes fun of us, mom/dad would tell us to ignore it, and not take it personally.  That turned into the bullying issue we see so often now.  I faced it, and I survived, but if I knew a better way to make it stop, I would have.  Now that I’m an adult, I find myself facing the same sort of issue.  Granted, people don’t generally screw with me the way they did when I was younger and unpopular, but they still get on my nerves with things that they do.

When it’s my choice to read what someone has to say about a certain topic, and their opinion may burn me a bit, it becomes my issue, because I chose to read the topic, and further if I comment on it and get nasty responses.  I can live with that.  What I don’t like is having to deal with negative feelings all day (yes these feelings are my own, but they’re really hard to handle sometimes – of which I am also responsible).  To survive one must work (except for extreme circumstances).  Unless you are your own boss, and work from home with no co-workers around, you probably have experienced some of these situations.

Before I continue, I want to preface that these are my opinions and questions.  I realize that they may come across as whiny, or annoying, and I admit that I could handle things better, but this is really a difficult area for me.  Also, as an individual (and many of my friends can attest to this), I prefer not to get into conversations about religion, politics, or money.  With money, it’s none of anyone’s business how much money I make, or what my BF makes.  It’s simply our business, as we are the one’s affected by the income we bring home, or what we chose to spend on certain items.  With religion & politics, my beliefs are probably contrary to the majority, so I choose not to talk about them because I don’t want to piss people off, and try not to get annoyed myself.

That being said, I work in an “office” where we are in a relatively small space, where five of us are separated by cubicles.  There is enough room for us to work in an individual 8×10 space, about the size of your standard jail cell.  There is one man made hallway down the middle, so there are three of us on one side, and two on the other.  It’s very easy to get into the habit of simply raising your voice to ask a question, as it’s a small space.  I will say that I don’t mind that so much, especially when the question/answer is beneficial to everyone in the room.  Because that’s become so habitual for a couple of people, another co-worker and I have noticed that their personal conversations have gone from standard “inside voice” to the near yelling across the cubicles to talk about something that’s not relevant to anyone else but these other co-workers.  When on the phone with a client, it’s difficult to hear when they’re speaking, but what’s more irritating are the topics of conversation.

In the past week, I have heard talk of the following:

•    A Muslim’s views on Christianity & Judaism.
•    A Christian’s view on the Bible, and lack of knowledge therein.
•    Ongoing comment on the fact that a co-workers husband is a “doctor,” and further on their monetary standing.

Now, because we work in the political arena, politics are usually a topic of conversation, but as it relates to our job, so that doesn’t annoy me so much.  Between the five of us, two (myself & co-worker) have talked about these issues that we have to one another, and have made decisions to help us handle these annoyances to the best of our ability.  Both of us now have noise cancelling headphones we wear when it gets to be too much, we e-mail back and forth when we need to bitch a little bit, without being too specific, because we don’t want to get into trouble, and we’ve gone for walks just to get out of the office.

She has vocalized her disgust with our other co-workers commenting on her financial standing, because her husband is in his residency period, and is a doctor, but anyone who knows about the time of residency knows that they are probably hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt due to the student loans, and that residency pays little to nothing, compared to being an independent practitioner.  She has also been pegged as the rich girl because her family comes from Nantucket.  She has mentioned several times, quite nicely I might add, that she would prefer people not talk about certain things.  I too have told one co-worker who asked how much I make that it was none of her business, to get the retort that because of who I work for it’s public information.  Granted it is, but if she wants to know, she can do a search.  Regardless of our requests, the topics continue to be discussed with no regard to the requests that have been made.

I’ve often wondered if this happens at any other office.  In previous jobs, I have never run across this kind of behavior.  So, what’s tolerable?  What would you be offended by, or put off by, as a conversation while at work with people who are not your friends but co-workers?

My list includes the following:
•    Religion
•    Politics
•    Finances/Money
•    Unsolicited comments on personal life
•    Unsolicited opinions
•    Overly dramatic reactions to a small issue (What your mom would refer to as insignificant because there are starving children <insert country>

I’m sure there are more, but I can’t think of them right now.  So, have at it!  I’m really curious!

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About Kari

I live in the Capital Region of NY, work for NYS, and am just beginning to blog. I was recently diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, so that's going to take up some content. I've been writing for as long as I can remember, and I am an opinionated person. Thus there will be some items that burn me up, that I simply want to play devil's advocate, or daily/personal items. I also Tweet (@Marilyth) when the mood strikes me in 140 characters or less. I'm doing this for fun, and I hope other appreciate the information and contribute!
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2 Responses to Taking it Personnel-ly??

  1. bro-in-law says:

    Well, if you want an unsolicited opinion, heres one.

    How many men have fallen on the blades of their enemies swords for arguing religion i.e. Crusades – How many people have been buried on foriegn soil due to politics i.e. All American Wars started by ignorant leaders – How many wars have been started by Financial position i.e. – the soon to happen WW3 or Civil War here on US soil due to Oil barrels – I realize that is a question but it provokes your opinions based on where you stand with all things money, religion, politics. I dont care who is president, who we bomb, or who makes tons of money per year. What I want to know is, are these people trying each day to make a better life for themselves or their families, are they helping strangers get by. I think the most important thing in dealing with co-workers is that you arent gonna be stuck with them forever, take consolation in the fact that they most likely will always be bitches and bastards and most importantly know that you are the bigger person and just ignore them completely! My opinion only.

    PS – You hit the nail on the head – If people want to bitch about how much a Doctor makes, have them offer to pay a little on them student loans. Right now in the US a fresh attending surgeon makes close to 350,000 per year. Sounds good huh? OOPS forgot about the average loan for said surgeon from STATE college is 650,000 dollars and they have that debt to start with so while they aren’t working they have to somehow pay it back once they hit that special point in their career.

  2. Erin says:

    Your list pretty much looks like my list. Though I’m okay w/ religion as long as it’s done respectfully & at the appropriate time (i.e. lunch or breaks). I’ve had a few political conversations and they NEVER turned out well. One even resulted in a yelling match. Oy.

    But the one thing that I really hate is being questioned about my choice on certain things, especially being vegetarian. At my last job, they had at least 1 in-company lunch per month (sometimes more) and every time, I would go to the person in charge of ordering and request that they include at least one vegetarian meal. And every single time, I got nasty snide remarks about how I can just eat the salad or I can just pick off the meat on the sandwiches. I had to end up going to HR even after I tried to inform the person (nicely) they were being rude and judgmental.

    If a Jewish person were to request pork-free food, there would be no question. So yeah, if a person doesn’t agree with my lifestyle choice, that’s fine, but keep it to yourself at work. If there’s a reason why the menu can’t be changed, then inform me of that rather than being a bitch and giving me hell for my choices. I mean seriously, would they have liked it if I commented on their horrendous fashion style? heh

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