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Banter in the office

Rabbi David SperlingSivan 27, 5773
324
Question
Hello. I am a married woman (in my late 20s)who works in a small office, sometimes only with my boss (male, married, 60+), at time with another co-worker . Our door is always unlocked, and there is a huge window that opens to the hall where people sometimes pass by, so Yichud isn't a problem. However, other than work-related talk, sometimes my boss engages me or co-workers in small-talk, talking about personal life etc. While I try, for the most part, to discuss business and ask work-related questions, I don’t want to not be nice, and I respond or engage in conversation, etc. Sometimes there are jokes, people laugh, and now and then there is an "office party" for the hagim. Is this a problem of modesty?
Answer
Shalom, Thank you for your question. Your sensitivity to modesty is praiseworthy, and a lovely reminder to us all to make certain that we try to create a pure and modest society. In general, questions of this nature do not have an exact and constant answer. The line between politeness and frivolity is a fine one. Whilst we try to make certain that we distance ourselves from any chance of falling into inappropriate behavior, we also believe that men and women can have polite and normal interactions in the public sphere. Your community norms will also affect what is appropriate. In many communities, they have mixed functions (and there are halachic grounds for such behavior), whilst in others the sexes are separated at all times (and there are grounds for this also). So, the best advice I can give, without knowing your particular situation and background, is firstly always act politely, but together with that your natural instincts are probably a good guide to what is appropriate, and you should try to avoid situations you feel uncomfortable in. Blessings.
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