The work culture in my office is very collaborate and supportive. And although I appreciate the fact that everyone is young and friendly, this atmosphere makes it easy to forget what topics are work-appropriate. The teams are very close and often blur the line between work friends and real friends. This is great but it also means that people will share stories about getting drunk at the bars or hitting up a cute boy at a party. Most people talk very loud and there are no walls in our space. This means I can hear entire conversations. I had a similar office set-up when I interned for a start-up last year but my supervisor was very explicit about what topics were work-appropriate. Partying was not one of them.
The willingness to share extends to my team. Over dinner we had a long conversation about the dating app, Tinder. “Dating” might not be the right word; it was also referred to in our conversation as a “hook-up app.” The conversation also involved pregnancy (a few people at dinner were parents) and current dating situations. I’m glad my team is comfortable having these conversations around me but I’m not sure how to respond. I keep thinking back to Alexandra Levit’s book They Don’t Teach Corporate in College when she mistakenly thought her co-worker was her best friend.
I’m trying to find the balance between acting professional and actually being a real person. Right now, I’m leaning towards professional. I listen to the stories about boyfriends and bars but I don’t contribute. The only time I share things about my personal life is when I’m explicitly asked. And even then my answers are pretty mundane. I keep reminding myself that a conversation about boys is not an appropriate one to have with your supervisor, even if she asks.
I think most of our work environments are fairly casual and I was wondering if anyone had a similar experience. Either way, what’s your take on this situation?