The 12 Worst Things You Can Do at Work
Building a career can be a challenge. It requires work, skill and talent, but it also requires avoiding a toxic workplace that can hamper your ambitions.
If you can find a great organization with a company culture that you can embrace, your chances of success will be enhanced. However, if you want to keep your career on track, there are a few things that you should never do at work.
Some of them are just bad choices, but others involve situations in which you could actually be hurting your career by doing something that you view as a good thing.
1. Never take credit for someone else’s work.
This is essential if the other person is your subordinate, but it can cause just as much harm if you are stealing a peer’s thunder.
You risk being publicly unmasked, which makes you seem devious and untrustworthy. If the credit should go to someone you supervise, you are sending him or her a message that you are the most important member of the team.
In this age when employee engagement is critical to retaining top talent, you could find your star player becoming less productive, less cooperative and more likely to abandon ship just when you need someone to bail you out of a tight spot.
Incidentally, taking credit for someone else’s work is not always an active step. It can also occur when you passively accept praise because your boss assumes that you are responsible and you do nothing to dispel the perception.
2. Strive to never be late.
Whether you are arriving in the morning, attending a meeting or relieving a colleague for lunch, be on time.
When you are late, you are sending a clear message that you do not value the time of others.
If you are always late, try to determine what is causing your tardiness. Are you staying up too late to make it in on time?
Try going to bed earlier.
Do you lose track of time during work hours?
Try setting the alarm on your cell phone to remind you that you have someplace to be.
Other possible reasons for constantly running late include procrastination, being easily distracted or difficulty disengaging from conversations when you need to.
3. Do not show up for work when you have a contagious illness.
Many people think that coming to work when they are ill shows character and strength. However, if you are contagious, no one is going to appreciate your efforts, including your boss.
If you show up with the flu, for example, you could spread your germs to your colleagues, and in a few days, you might discover that your office is deserted because the rest of the staff has wisely called in while they recover from the disease that you passed on to them.
Even if your coworkers do not fall ill, they could still spread the bug to infants or people with compromised immune systems who could face serious complications from the disease that you spread.
At the very least, you will not improve your employee relations with your coworkers.
4. Conversely, never call in sick if you are healthy.
You are leaving your team short-handed, so your coworkers will need to cover your duties as well as their own.
It may be a beautiful day for a picnic in the park with your significant other, but how can you truly enjoy yourself when you know that you have placed an unnecessary burden on your colleagues?
Even worse, how are you going to explain your speedy recovery if your boss happens to take a stroll in the park while you are frolicking while allegedly ill?
5. Never gossip about a coworker, especially with other coworkers.
Maybe you think that Jane is in dire need of a new wardrobe or that John has put on a lot of weight recently.
Perhaps you spotted Tom at a restaurant with a woman other than his wife or you have heard that Joan has filed for a divorce.
You may think that Sue only got promoted because she flatters the boss or that Harry gets preferential treatment because he and the boss both graduated from the same school.
Whatever your thoughts might be or whatever you have heard, avoid workplace discussions. If you simply must gossip, wait until you are home and tell it to your significant other — or better yet, tell it to your cat; he will likely appreciate the attention.
6. Do not be a martyr.
Martyrs will do anything asked of them if it will benefit the company or their boss.
They seem unable to refuse any request.
If they are asked to work every weekend for the next three months, they will smile and acquiesce.
If they are asked to take a trip, they will go even if it means that they will miss seeing a child’s appearance as the star of a school play.
If they are assigned a project with an impossible deadline, they will work around the clock to complete it on time. Once upon a time, this type of dedication was appreciated by management, but today, smart managers know that martyrs are potential liabilities.
Martyrs are always teetering on the brink of a critical mistake or a meltdown.
Some managers claim that martyrs contribute to a toxic workplace by causing unrest among coworkers and creating an atmosphere that is not conducive to teamwork.
Good managers know that there is a big difference between employee engagement and martyrdom; they know that their most productive employees are engaged but have a good work-life balance.
7. Avoid biting the hand that feeds you.
Today, organizations are placing increased importance on the company culture.
They want everyone to be “one big happy family” with everyone invested in the mission statement and working toward the company goals.
When employees carp about the company or its management, they are viewed as disloyal, disrespectful and a poor fit with the company.
You may feel that the company needs to improve their employee relations program, hate the company’s newest product or believe that whoever decided to replace the content management system was an idiot.
Whatever your thoughts, complaining loudly to anyone who will listen will not help your cause. If you feel that you have ideas that will improve the situation, take the time to organize your thoughts, find supporting evidence and discuss the issue with someone who has the authority to make changes.
Maybe your ideas will be ignored, but at least you have proven that respect your employer.
8. Never burn your bridges.
You may have heard about the flight attendant who quit in a very dramatic fashion; while his flight was awaiting takeoff, he resigned and then exited the plane on the emergency slide.
He was promptly arrested, and it is highly unlikely that he will ever work for another airline.
Furthermore, his unprofessional and explosive conduct may limit his opportunities with any other type of company.
9. Avoid boasting.
Bragging always creates conflict, makes others feel you are belittling them and conveys a childish attitude.
Maybe your bonus was much more than you expected, but boasting about it to others who may have received less is not going to win you any popularity contests.
Even if your boss told you that you are the most intelligent employee he has ever hired, keep it to yourself.
10. Never assume that your actions will be perceived correctly if you do not communicate effectively.
For example, you might notice that one of your coworkers is always coming in early or working late. You assume that it is because she has too much work to do, so you tell her that you would be happy to take some of her workload.
You think that you are being generous and benevolent; she may think that you are insulting her abilities.
The better way to handle the situation would be to mention her extended hours to her and ask if she needs any assistance.
You may discover that she is only working those hours because she is handling a project that involves making calls to people in different time zones.
11. Always be careful of what you say in your emails.
You might think that your boss is the north end of a southbound horse, but you should not send an email to your coworker expressing that sentiment.
You may believe that you can talk the production manager into prioritizing an order for your customer, but do not send the customer an email telling him that.
These things have a way of coming back to haunt you; all the recipient has to do is forward your email to someone you would prefer not to see it.
Along the same train of thought, watch out for the insidious “Reply All” button.
Suppose a customer service representative forwards an email to you that she received from a customer. The customer is requesting a concession that you are unwilling to make.
You write a reply explaining that it is not possible to agree to the request, but you include a note that this particular customer is a royal pain in the neck and that you would rather walk barefoot over hot coals than give him the time of day.
If you hit the “Reply All” button, the customer now has written proof of your true feelings — and he is probably going to present this proof to your boss.
12. Never lie.
Whether you are covering for yourself or someone else, your career will suffer when your lie is discovered.
You will jeopardize your reputation and credibility.
Many managers believe that telling lies is the worst thing that anyone can do at work. It leaves them wondering what else an employee might be willing to do.
Would they pad their overtime hours or expense account?Would they steal supplies from the company?
Would they embezzle funds?
By telling a lie, employees risk being perceived as untrustworthy, which is never a good attribute to be assigned to anyone looking for career advancement.
These behaviors range from inconsiderate or rude to destructive and cruel. Perhaps the most insidious thing about them is that they can sneak up on you, and you can find yourself doing them without being consciously aware of your actions.
Having a system in place that allows peer-to-peer feedback about this and many other aspects of your company can really help improve their engagement, happiness, productivity, loyalty and overall employee experience.
P.S. By the way, we would love to welcome you to our LinkedIn Group, HR Today: Employee Engagement, Workplace Climate and Company Culture. We have lots of great content dedicated to employee engagement, the employee experience, and other fun and interesting topics.