Not entirely surprisingly, most of the research about what you should and shouldn’t talk about work is done mostly by companies that want to do some search engine optimization and earned media from having their survey or study reported on.
Which is a bit of a complicated way to say that scientific rigor isn’t exactly the first concern of surveys like this — generally a big headline is more the concern.
That being said, the surveys do still indicate something about how those taking the survey feel, however representative it may or may not be. And one of the most quoted surveys about this particular topic comes from InsuranceQuotes.com,, which found that 71% of people surveyed felt that your sex life isn’t an appropriate topic for work, while 69% felt that drug use was an unacceptable topic. Gossip, salary, sexual orientation, gender identity, and politics also make the list.
But someone feeling like something shouldn’t be talked about, and the importance of actually talking about something, may not match up. And in many cases, the so-called taboo topics are the things you actually should talk about.
The only way to destigmatize something is to normalize it – and that includes it being at least mentioned, if not talked about, in everyday situations — including work. Talking about what you make, for example, is one of the quickest paths to pay equity. And talking about your sexual orientation – not in detail, but being able to mention it in general – is an important part of not being in the closet.
I think, as with many things, it’s more about how you approach something than what the topic itself is. So while there may be taboo topics with co-workers, the topics themselves may be more an indication of what someone doesn’t want to deal with than if it’s appropriate or not.