One of the benefits of working in the office is time to bond with your co-workers around the water cooler. One of the negatives of working in the office is chatting with your co-workers around the water cooler.
If you're never annoyed by your co-workers' chatter, then be forewarned--you're probably the annoying one. I asked my readers what topics of conversation should be taboo at the office, and you'll be surprised that not one of them mentioned Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton by name, although politics made the list. Here are the 10 most annoying things someone is talking about at the water cooler right now (in no particular order).
1. Their perfect children.
Most people either have children or are planning to have them some day, so talking about them is normal. However, when your child can do no wrong and is surprisingly better than everybody else's child, it starts to get annoying. Example:
Jane: Oh, my little Johnny took his first steps yesterday! Only 11 months old!
Mom of perfect child: My Bonnie took her first steps at 10 months!
Steve: I'm so proud of my Kate. First place in the school spelling bee!
Mom of perfect child: My Bonnie wasn't allowed to participate in the school spelling bee anymore because she won it so many times, they wanted to give other kids a chance.
You know you've met this person.
2. Their imperfect spouse/significant other.
Everyone is imperfect, of course, but this person's significant other seems to have zero redeeming qualities. Lazy, whiny, can't hold a job, belches at the dinner table, refuses to help with the children, drinks too much, and couldn't operate a washing machine if you held a gun to his or her head. It takes all your self-control to scream, "If she's so awful, why did you marry her in the first place? Are you dumb as a rock?"
While no one specifically mentioned our two major-party presidential candidates, I suspect that people are tired of hearing the words "Hillary" and "Trump" around the water cooler. If people wanted to discuss the finer points of economic theory, that would probably be fine, but instead, most political discussions boil down to "my candidate is the best and yours stinks."
Food is always a great topic, of course. Except when it's not. There's the dieting co-worker who complains about his weight while stuffing donuts in his mouth. Then there's the vegan whose moral superiority knows no bounds. The vegan is not to be outdone by the person who doesn't eat gluten, even though she's not actually gluten intolerant. And then there is the judgy co-worker who criticizes what everyone else eats--it's too fatty, too salty, too bland, too spicy, or too smelly.
5. Their wedding planner.
Yay! A wedding. You were happy for your co-worker when she got engaged, but that was 18 months ago and the wedding talk has been going nonstop ever since. Bands, menus, registries and complaints about the bridesmaids are constant. This person is especially annoying when she's not only planning her wedding but constantly complaining about her partner (see No. 2 above). The only way to survive this is to take bets on how long the marriage will last.
6. Their weekend recap.
"Do anything fun this weekend?" This perfectly innocent question sometimes results in a brain dump of activities that shouldn't be shared with your co-workers. If you wouldn't want it to come up in a background check, you should probably not share your adventures around the water cooler.
7. Their medical drama.
Everyone has sympathy for your health problems, but detailed explanations of your toenail fungus and the doctor's prescribed treatment are a real turnoff. Every office seems to have someone who spends too much time on Web MD and offers medical advice that comes with a good dose of drama. It's not a cough, it's black lung disease.
8. Their Divorce.
This co-worker is either going through a divorce or is relatively recently divorced. He shares every detail of the legal and emotional drama. His hope is to gain sympathy, but it ends up with people just being thankful they were never married to him.
9. Their Pets.
People love their pets, but this person took a page out of the perfect children playbook. This person's pets are front and center in her life and she doesn't let you forget it. The pet is either perfect or high maintenance, but regardless, you'll see pictures, hear about afflictions mild or terrible, and if you dare say anything negative about the pet, you'll face her wrath.
10. Their co-workers.
These people are looking to gossip, and if you don't participate, you'll become their next victim. No one is safe from the office gossip, who tries to gain power by coming up with dirt on everyone else. While the others are mere annoyances, bosses should take special note of these water-cooler chatterers and kick them to the curb.