Keep it professional

Communication skills are more important than ever on the job. But how do I know when my interpersonal interaction is getting
too personal?
-A. Wilson, Baltimore

“If it feels uncomfortable, you’ve probably gone too far,” says Eileen Gray, president of the Atlanta Human Resources Association in Georgia. While open and supportive relationships at work can contribute to our job satisfaction and productivity, it is important to keep things in perspective.

The longer workday, coupled with a greater emphasis on teamwork (and the permissibility of casual attire in some offices), have blurred the once clear boundaries of office conduct. Today’s less rigid work attitudes demand that you exercise discretion when it comes to sharing information of a more personal nature with co-workers.

Even if your company’s culture is casual, avoid discussions pertaining to politics, religion and, especially, sex. Know that off-color comments or jokes and sexual language-blatant or implied-may be construed as harassment, so steer clear of them. If your conversation appears to embarrass, disgust or annoy others, quickly change the subject and talk about something else. Keep all these things in mind, and you’ll be doing your part to maintain a work environment where teamwork can safely flourish and contribute to the success of everyone.

Mail your self-empowerment questions to In The Know, black enterprise, 130 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10011 or send an e-mail; to clarker@blackenterprise.com.

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