Family Talk: What’s appropriate at the office?

We spend so much time in the office that it’s easy to develop friendships with your co-workers. A solid relationship with a fellow employee makes collaborating on projects even more enjoyable. Gossip, chat and a good vent about work or home comes with the territory.

When you are talking about your family at work, how do you know if you are sharing too much or if the topic is inappropriate?

1) Know Your Audience

I have worked with the same people for roughly five years and very few employees in my office are parents. I have learned along the way that certain topics around family moments are not appropriate for the office.

For example, my detailed story about potty training was not exactly a favored one. It was funny to me but I probably should have quit while I was ahead.

If asked how the kids are doing, do share but give the co-workers an edited version of the story if necessary.

2) Some Words Are Best Left Outside Of The Office

  • Projectile. Any sentence that includes the word “projectile” does not make for a pretty story!
  • Vomiting. Ditto to the thought noted above.
  • Diarrhea. Enough said.

3) Share With Caution

A good story about the kids is fun to tell. You are a mom and proud of it but be careful about how much you tell. As you get settled into a meeting, small talk is common but don’t delay the start of it because you’re telling a story about your son’s baseball home run.

If you are new to an office or company, share cautiously until you get to know your co-workers. You may find yourself in an environment full of working moms and can enjoy a good conversation about potty training.

On the flip side of that, you may learn family moments are not always welcome.

4) Read Your Audience

While my manager and many co-workers are not parents themselves, they ask about my family often and sometimes want to hear a story about my little guy. He’s four years old so the experiences and stories are in no shortage. I try to keep it brief when I tell stories though.

The blank look on a face or silence when I should hear laughter is an indication I need to wrap it up. I can easily read their faces at this point in our working relationship and it’s clear to me when “family talk” should come to an end.

5) Keep It Positive

Don’t take it personally. I’m not a fan of that sentiment because even in business, you can feel things on a personal level. Keep in mind that a co-worker may have limited interest in your family stories. That is ok and not a reflection on you or your family.

While that may sill sting a bit, just remember your office is filled with a cast of characters (including you) that was brought together for one common reason. Business.


6 thoughts on “Family Talk: What’s appropriate at the office?

  1. this is good for any topic at work! my 2 closest co-workers aren’t married, so kid convos are short. and if i brag on my kids for a few minutes, I will then quickly ask someone about their kid. definitely know your audience!! great stuff, steph!!


  2. I remember the days when the mommy's and daddy's of the office would yack on and on about their kids and I felt like I had nothing in common with them – I just couldn't relate until I had my own kids. So I've learned from that experience to keep it really short and edited with people who don't have kids!

    Great suggestions and thanks for sharing!!


  3. Thanks KT for the link!

    I have found at all the company's I've worked for each one is so different and every office has its own culture. We just learn how to manage within the circumstances we are in. Some may be better than others…


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