10 Things You Should Never Do at Work

Last Updated Jul 15, 2011 12:04 PM EDT

10 Things You Should Never Do at WorkSome of you will shoot up the corporate ladder like you were born with leadership abilities far beyond those of ordinary mortals. If only that was the case for everyone.

The vast majority of us actually progress in fits and starts with maybe even a minor correction or two along the way.

Don't feel too bad; it's just the universe's way of screwing with us from time to time, just to make sure we're paying attention.

Still, I've found that most of the issues you're likely to run into can be avoided, if you know what to look out for. Since we can all use a little help these days, here are:

10 Things You Should Never Do at Work
  1. Say or write anything you wouldn't want plastered on the Yahoo home page, or in the hands of the SEC, FTC, DOJ, or IRS. You have zero expectation of privacy at work and should therefore assume that anything and everything is being recorded for all eternity and will come back to haunt you at the worst possible time. That includes emails, phone calls, even hallway or parking lot conversations.
  2. Over-apologize. We all make mistakes and it's always good to fess up, but in business, you can go too far and actually make matters worse. If it's a minor issue, just a quick "sorry about that" is fine. If it's a big screw-up, apologize in private, face-to-face. Look the guy in the eye, say your piece, and be done with it. If you want confirmation, then ask, "Are we good now?" Don't grovel, make promises you can't keep, or anything else. Just man-up and leave it alone.
  3. Take your smartphone to the bathroom. Hopeless addiction to smartphones, needing to stay connected 24x7, and being constantly pressed for time, do not belong in a place where flushes can be heard on the other end of the line or, God forbid, the thing can drop into something wet, white, and porcelain. Leave it in your pocket and, if it rings, have the good sense not to answer.
  4. Cross swords with your boss, your boss's boss, or any other boss. Too many of you just don't get how civilization, organization, or the lack of either - which we affectionately call the jungle - works. You simply don't square off with your boss or anyone in the chain of command. If you lose, you lose; if you win, you still lose. It'll end badly and reflect badly on you no matter how it goes down. If you want to know how to deal with a bad boss, click the link.
  5. Go looking for trouble. If you're in a bad mood or pissed off at somebody or something, walk it off or treat yourself to a nice greasy donut or something. If you go looking for trouble, however, I can almost guarantee you will find it and it won't end well for you. Don't pick fights, push buttons, or otherwise give anyone a hard time. It's called acting out, it's childish, and it'll stunt your career, bigtime.
  6. Make commitments you can't keep or exaggerate your ability or influence. And don't lie either. The more straightforward and genuine you are, the smoother your career - and your life, for that matter - will go. Do what you say you're going to do, leave the BS for the other guy, and your credibility will grow, people will count on you for more and more, and off you go.
  7. Get angry, abusive, combative, or loud in an open or cubicle area. Admittedly, I was often guilty of this, back in the day. It wasn't acceptable then and it's not acceptable now, but at least then, it was a relatively common occurrence. These days, you stand out like a big bully, bigtime. And nobody likes a bully.
  8. Say or do stuff people really don't want to hear or see. "Too much information" might be a bit subjective, but there's a common sense line you shouldn't cross, including anything to do with your sex life, religious beliefs, political leanings, finances, holistic cures for mysterious ailments, frequency of bowel movements, revealing tats or scars that are and should remain hidden by clothing, you get the picture.
  9. Act like a whiny, PITA negatron that nobody wants to have anything to do with. It's ironic, but those who do all the complaining are the ones that make the workplace a living hell, not the people or stuff they're always whining about. Think about it.
  10. Talk trash about a coworker to anyone, anywhere on company property. You can be sure it'll get around and come back to bite you in the end. Save it for friends, your spouse, or better still, the dog.
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