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Advice / Job Search / Networking

9 Ways You're Undermining Yourself in the Office Without Realizing It

There is at least one flake in every office. You know the type. It’s the person who is reasonably likable, but whom no one trusts. They seem to be mostly oblivious, often thinking that no one will notice that they are unreliable.

This person can be very disruptive, and yet somehow he or she has managed to obtain a position of authority. The frustration level climbs when the boss delivers only what he considers important, leaving everyone else covering for his lack of attention.

It’s bad enough dealing with people like this, but you certainly don’t want to be one. Pay attention to this list of bad habits to avoid. Most people won’t care enough to point out the transgressions, so share it around and no one can claim ignorance.

1. Showing Up Late

You may think that arriving five minutes late to an appointment or being the last one on a conference call doesn’t matter. It does. People notice. Sure, there are allowances for transportation and security issues in the building, maybe once or twice. But habitually tardy people are downgraded and thought of as selfish. Get control of your time so you are known for being a little early.

2. Not Checking Your Notes Before Meetings

A meeting can be either a productive and efficient sharing of ideas and information, or a dreadful disaster of confusion and boredom. It’s incredibly frustrating to stare around the table at blank faces or to get irrelevant and useless discussion. You can’t be responsible for everyone’s participation, but you sure can improve it on your end. Be fully prepared and ready to engage so no one thinks you are the laggard.

3. Not Responding to Email Promptly

Everyone is busy. Everyone gets lots of email. If you make people chase you, they will hate you. 24 hours is the maximum you should take before you respond, even it is a simple acknowledgement. Then you can establish a reasonable time to respond and manage expectations.

4. Missing Appointments

Nothing will make you seem flakier than not showing up when expected. Most people have a one-time tolerance for a missed event. The second time, you have already lost stature and priority in their mind.

5. Not Paying Attention

You may think you can daydream and fake it, but anyone with whom it’s worth engaging knows when you are not in the game. If you are so disinterested in work activities that you have to play like you are on-board, maybe it’s time to move on. Find something that excites you.

6. Overpromising and Underdelivering

People will give you a couple of chances to match what you say you will do with what you actually do. Then they will mentally either put you in the “yes” or “no” box. Set expectations reasonably and then beat them every time if you want to look like a winner.

7. Forgetting Details

The best opportunities are filled with complexity. Someone who gets only most of it right has very limited utility. If you don’t have a photographic memory, write things down. Review your notes and talk through the information to make sure you really understand everything that is required. Then double-check just to make sure you haven’t missed anything.

8. Texting During Face-to-Face Conversations

Face-to-face contact is getting more rare these days thanks to technology; all the more reason you are being judged on the use of your smartphone. If someone is making the point to look you in the eye, he or she won’t be impressed with your thumb-typing skills. Show respect and pay attention.

9. Making Wholly Avoidable Mistakes

People can tolerate a lot of ignorance but they have little to no tolerance for stupidity. The difference is simple. Ignorance is when you don’t know any better. Stupidity is when you are told or were shown that something won’t work, and you go ahead and do it anyway. Even making the same mistake twice will completely shatter any credibility you had at the beginning, so pay attention and be a winner.

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