Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will undoubtedly know that Valentine’s Day is coming up.
The romantic holiday is the one time of year that it’s totally normal to send your significant other a huge heart-shaped balloon to their workplace.
But while Hallmark may want you to confess your undying love for your partner, perhaps these declarations are best left inside a card—and well away from the ears of your colleagues.
Really, constantly gushing about your spouse or new romantic interest in the office can be cringe-inducing for your coworkers. Especially if Valentine’s Day has long gone and you’re still detailing their perfect personality and beautiful eyes.
Niraj Kapur, LinkedIn trainer, TEDx speaker, and author of Business Growth: Lessons Learned from Divorce, Dating and Falling In Love, breaks down exactly how much workers and managers should be talking about their loved ones at work.
Is talking about your partner in the office tasteless?
Kapur says that is absolutely fine to praise “a significant other for being a marvelous partner and parent”—but in small doses.
For example, on a Monday morning when peers are discussing their weekend, it would be natural to mention your loved one and anything interesting you got up to outside of work. “The same rule applies on a Friday with the weekend approaching,” Kapur says.
Or if you’re a boss who misses the chatter that takes place at workers’ desks, bring up your partner when it’s genuinely relevant to a conversation you’re already having with your team.
“At the end of the sales month, when staff were unsure if they could hit target due to lack of belief, I would talk about my now ex-wife and her journey. She came to England as an immigrant with no qualifications and went on to have tremendous success,” Kapur recalls.
“Why? She was resilient and always believed in herself. I wanted my staff to know they could also achieve anything with the right attitude, so that story is relevant,” he adds.
When it’s never okay to talk about your loved one
While praising your partner in small doses is generally acceptable, it’s never okay to publicly put them down.
Kapur suggests avoiding getting cheap laughs at the expense of your partner, for example by pointing out that you don’t like their fashion sense or that you think their political views are naive.
Plus, there are three topics you should avoid “at all costs” when talking about your loved one: sex, politics or religion.
No one wants to hear you brag about how good your love life is. Meanwhile, dissing (or praising) your loved one’s religious or political beliefs could cause discomfort among team members who agree or disagree with those views.
Ultimately, “sometimes saying nothing is better than saying anything silly”, Kapur advises.
How much should people talk about their love life at work?
Human beings are always worried about being judged. But “nobody is judging you as much as you’re judging yourself,” Kapur insists.
Still, if you’re worried all of your workers or peers are sick of hearing about your loved one, then there’s a simple formula you can follow going forward: The 80:20 rule.
When you’re in a professional setting, 80% of your chatter should be centered around work and the remaining 20% can be personal.
“Business is becoming more personal since nearly 3 in 5 people are struggling with their mental health,” says Kapur.
So talking about your private life, including the people in it, can encourage others to open up, create a culture of trust and bring a more human element to workplace interactions.
Kapur points out that when he has shared details about “the loneliness of life after divorce” it has worked out well for himself and his business because people want to know “the person behind the job title”.
He says that this vulnerability makes him more relatable and trustworthy, than someone who projects a bullet-proof image of themselves.
“If someone is scared, I give an example of a time I was scared, like when I first spoke on stage or when I first became a manager,” he says
“I talk about how I overcame that by having my partner believe in me and tell me it was possible,” he adds.
It’s a good example of how to talk about a loved one in the office, Kapur concludes because “it’s not done for the sake of gossip, but moral support.”
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