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Off limits: Topics you should never discuss at work


Working in the domestic services industry, whether it be as butler, nanny, chef or chauffeur, typically involves a lot of personal interaction with one’s boss. Nannies, for example, will likely work closely alongside the parents who hire them, taking instructions and collaborating to ensure the children receive the best care. And butlers, of course, are expected to be attentive and present, taking instructions from their employer and anticipating their needs at all times.

It is common, therefore, for professionals in these roles to develop friendships with their bosses. It makes sense after all – when two adults work together every day in close proximity the conversation is likely to turn to non-professional matters, at least some of the time.

While friendships are surely fine, it is important for domestic services professionals to keep in mind that some topics of conversation should be kept off limits to ensure professionalism and to avoid situations wherein offense could potentially be taken.

Are you new to the domestic services industry? Are you concerned about what shouldn’t be discussed with your new boss? We have a helpful guide to some topics that should be avoided at work whenever possible:

1. Politics
Given the recent election cycle and the never ending news broadcasts covering political events, it can be incredibly hard not to state your opinion on a certain issue, or mention which party you support. It is highly, recommended, however that you fight the urge to do this. As detailed by The Balance, politics can be a very contentious issue. Of course, there’s always a chance that your boss may agree with your perspective, but there’s an equal risk that he or she may have opposing views, potentially leading to awkwardness or tension between you. It’s also common for individuals to dislike discussing politics in general, and if you decide to bring it up on a routine basis, it may come across as irritating or even offensive. Don’t risk it. Save the political debates for your close friends or family.

2. Medical problems
Of course, if you’re experiencing a medical problem that is impacting your performance at work you should flag it with your boss. Any general discussion about less serious health problems you may have, however, should be avoided, Career Addict advised. The reason is simple – health issues are a personal matter, and frankly it is a topic that is none of your boss’s business. If you decide to engage your employer in a lengthy chat about that mole you’re having removed, or your irritable bowl syndrome, you’re likely to make her feel uncomfortable, bored or both, which can put a strain on your professional relationship.

3. Love life
Discussing your sex life should be avoided like the plague in a professional setting, especially with your boss. As explained by Talent Smart, the reason for this is simple – it’s inappropriate and has the potential to offend or make professional interactions awkward. Furthermore, there is the risk that your employer could become offended to the point where termination or even a sexual harassment lawsuit is possible. Laughter and chats about your love life are best reserved for brunches with your best friends, not your boss.

4. Relationship problems
It can be hard to separate your professional and personal life, and if you’re upset over a fight you just had with your spouse, or an issue with your children, there is every chance that you may want to unload how you’re feeling on your employer. According to The Balance, this is ill advised, as it may lead to your employer wondering if your personal life is affecting your ability to work. That’s not to mention the fact that discussion of such issues is rather unprofessional. The only circumstances under which such disclosures are appropriate are when you experience a major life changing event, such as a death in the family or a divorce.

5. Religion
Alongside politics and sex, religion is a major no go when it comes to potential topics of discussion. As explained by Career Addict, the reason for this is that religion is another issue that can evoke strong personal feelings, heightening the risk of tension and conflict. While it’s probably fine to mention your religious affiliation, do not discuss the topic in depth and absolutely do not try to convince your boss of your religious worldview, or lack thereof – it’s a recipe for disaster.

6. Offensive jokes
While you may think you’re the funniest person in the world, it’s likely that your employee won’t take too kindly to your endless jokes, especially if they are crude or offensive in nature, Talent Smart stressed. If you do feel the need for some comedy, keep it squeaky clean and try to be clever and original – there’s nothing more awkward than a bad joke that fails to land, Topics that are always off limits for jokes include sex and sexuality, religion, politics, disability, race, toilet humor, medical problems – the list goes on. It’s best just to play it safe and save the comedy routine for after work.

7. Partying
While you may still party like you’re in college, it’s a wise idea not to promote this fact at work, Talent Smart maintained. Cultivating a “wild child” reputation can damage how you’re viewed professionally, and it can create the impression of immaturity and unreliability. If you do enjoy heading to the bar or club on the weekend that’s fine, just be responsible and absolutely do not advertise it to your employer on Monday morning.

Ultimately, the key to keeping things professional is exercising common sense. Think something through before you speak to your boss – if you feel there’s a chance it might not be appropriate, it probably isn’t. Play it safe and keep it to yourself. 

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