A friend of mine recently returned from a business trip with several of her colleagues, including her boss and his wife. There were several dinners and sightseeing excursions planned most nights, so everyone had plenty of time to unwind and get to know each other. It sounds lovely, but my friend got much more than she bargained for once she started talking to her boss’s wife.
Throughout the trip, the woman—whose husband, ironically, is very straitlaced and conservative—would make reference to the couple’s sex life. At first, everyone was somewhat amused—these two are well into their 60s—but soon it got uncomfortable. The boss’s wife would casually mention marital spats, including the time she’d threatened to leave him. Another time, the group was taking some important clients to dinner when she started making obscene remarks about the nude male statues they’d all seen earlier that day. Talk about too much information! All anyone could do was politely chuckle and then change the subject.
Afterwards, all of my friend’s colleagues and spouses would remark about the unprofessional behavior. This woman wasn’t an employee, but as the spouse of the big boss, it seemed inappropriate for her to act that way in a business setting. Sure, it was charming and refreshing at times—goodness knows those business conferences can be stuffy!—but ultimately, everyone felt awkward and wondered what the woman’s husband made of it all. Who knows? Perhaps the woman was just nervous about fitting in and went too far in trying to be friendly and lively.
Making off-color remarks or sharing intimate details about your life will only invite gossip, not win over friends, especially in a business context. If you are accompanying your spouse or partner at a work function, don’t forget that you are representing your better half, even if you’re not the one on the payroll. Have a great time, but be discreet and don’t do anything that could tarnish your partner’s image.