8 Questions You Should Never Have to Answer at Work
There are some work questions you just can’t avoid. (“Why are you late?” comes to mind.) But some questions that arise on the job don’t exactly require a detailed response, especially if they make you feel uncomfortable. With an increasingly blurred line between one’s work and social lives, it’s sometimes easy to forget that boundaries exist. As a result, some of your coworkers might be feeling a bit too cozy, and bring up inappropriate topics with you.
There are a number of questions that are actually illegal for an employer to ask you during an interview or performance review. What about when the person asking isn’t your employer or your boss, but just another one of your coworkers? While not illegal in this context, these questions can still be painfully awkward.
Below is a list of 10 questions you should never, ever feel obligated to answer in the workplace. Whether coming from your boss, that guy from accounting, or your best work buddy, you have every right to politely decline to answer.
1. “Are you pregnant?”
Whether in the workplace or not, it’s never okay to ask someone if they’re pregnant. If a coworker is bold enough to ask this, I think it’s fair to say they deserve some much-needed side-eye.
2. Are you married?” or “Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife?”
Not only is your family structure, marital status, or sexual orientation completely irrelevant to your ability to do your job, this type of question often comes off as invasive. Some of us are very open about our home life, and that’s great; but if this makes you uncomfortable, politely let your coworker know that you’d rather not discuss it.
3. “What religion are you?”
As Linus says in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, “There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.” This is just an overall awkward question. Religion can be a deeply personal aspect of one’s life, and you’re under no obligation to answer this question inside or out of the workplace.
4. “Have you lost weight?” or “Do you ever eat?”
Generally speaking, it’s not appropriate to ask questions or make comments about a coworker’s appearance. These questions might be interpreted as body-shaming or even sexual harassment, and are most certainly best left unasked.
5. “Have you had cosmetic surgery?” or “Why were you recently out on sick leave?”
Again, it’s best to never, ever comment on a coworker’s appearance. This is especially true when it comes to remarking on whether or not someone has undergone any form of surgery, had an illness, or anything else related to their medical history. While you might feel OK with a (really close) friend asking you about this, you don’t have to get into any details if you’re not comfortable.
6. “So, have you ever dated a coworker?”
One’s romantic and sexual adventures should be divulged on a “need-to-know” basis, and your coworkers usually do not need to know.
7. “Who did you vote for in the last election?”
While you may be able to guess one’s political leanings from things they say, their actions, or other fun context clues, follow Linus’ advice: no religion, no politics, and no Great Pumpkin.
8. “Have you ever been arrested?”
Your record; your business.