There’s a lot to learn in a new position, and much of the expertise you’ll build will come with time and repetition. But some skills are better learned deliberately, and this is one of them: here are some guidelines to office chit chat!
- Coworkers: Your colleagues are people with the same job title as you, plus lower-level support staff. These are the people who will become your friends at work, so it’s natural to chat with them about normal, everyday stuff: hobbies, weekends, families. Take it slow and get to know each of them before diving in. Remember that the best conversations are the ones where you’re doing more listening and less talking, so ask plenty of questions about people to make them feel comfortable!
- Mentors: These are people who, like some teachers you’ve had, are responsible for helping you to build your career. Show them more respect by being consistently polite, and make sure to demonstrate gratitude when they help you solve a problem or learn something new at work. You can chat about weather and sports, but avoid conversations about deeply personal topics like religion or politics. This relationship must be strictly professional.
- Superiors: These are people, just like you, but it can be pretty stressful to be stuck on the elevator with a manager when you don’t know what to say! If you know that the person has just achieved something at work or been recognized, congratulate them. You can also mention the weather or some event in the office, but be careful about taking up too much time with conversation. Most higher-ups keep their distance from entry-level staff in big organizations because part of their job is to oversee from afar, and because they just don’t have time to build those relationships. Of course, there are exceptions to this, especially in smaller organizations, but tread lightly until you have fully assessed how superiors in your work place converse with other staff.
When in doubt, remember to be polite and ask questions. A sense of humor is always appreciated at work, but keep jokes to a small circle of colleagues and remember that everyone’s definition of “appropriate” is a bit different, so keep it professional with anyone you don’t know very well. Practice makes perfect, but these general guidelines will help to avoid uncomfortable breaches of protocol until you know the ropes!
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