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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

Work Appropriate: How Not to Behave on the Job

During the hectic work week, you’re caught up thinking about everything you should be doing. But no matter how busy, tired, or stressed you are, don’t let what you shouldn’t be doing slip your mind, either.

Corporate cultures and office environments may vary, but spending hours setting a high score on Spider Solitaire is never going to be appropriate. When it comes to how not to behave at work, some rules apply everywhere.

1. Leave the Hoodie At Home

Even though the office A/C can be killer. Same goes for the leggings, unless carefully paired with a tunic or dress of appropriate length. Dress in a way that if your mother saw you, she’d think, “Now that’s a lovely outfit!” In a casual or business casual office environment, you might not get in trouble for eccentric style, but you’ll risk not being taken seriously.


2. Respect the Clients

Client-time at the office means higher stress levels and higher standards of professionalism for everybody. When clients stop by for a meeting or a check-in, make sure that you’re aware of the code of conduct. It’ll be stricter than those casual Fridays when the rules are slightly more relaxed, and the same jokes and banter with your boss may not fly when the clients are watching.

3. Don’t Mistake Work For A Social Gathering

Sure, it’s tempting to hang out in the coffee room all day, especially when there’s juicy gossip going around or when you’re tired and just don’t feel like working. But work isn’t a party. It’s great to have friends at work and to form relationships with your co-workers—but don’t get distracted by water cooler banter. Someone will get annoyed with you.

4. Cut the Questionable Jokes

I saw one of my wonderful, intelligent co-workers get fired for his slightly off-color sense of humor, when another coworker took it the wrong way. You can’t always judge how someone is going to interpret your jokes, so it’s imperative that you save the racy ones for happy hour—or better yet, for your friends.

5. Know When To Let Things Go

Work is not the place to argue with peoples’ personal beliefs. At an after-work happy hour, I once learned that three of my co-workers were Fox News enthusiasts and gun lovers. Now I’ve never seen a gun in my life, and I hate Bill O’Reilly with a burning passion. But if I’d shared that with this crew, I’m certain they wouldn’t have appreciated it. So, try to appreciate others’ points of view, and leave it at that.


6. Don’t Delay Bearing Bad News

You accidentally sent the clients the wrong email, and when your boss finds out, she’s going to be furious. You’re tempted to avoid telling her, hoping maybe the problem will go away. You pray the clients’ email server is down and has deleted everything. There’s one problem: that'll never work.  When you make a mistake, explain what happened, take the necessary steps to rectify the situation, and move forward. Everyone makes mistakes, and your supervisor will appreciate your directness.

Whether you’re scrambling or trudging through tasks on your to-do list, remember there’s also a “to-not-do” list at the office. When you feel the urge to do something inappropriate or short-sighted, realize it'll reflect on you and can leave a lasting impression on your boss and co-workers. So say goodbye to that all-day coffee room banter and your high score in Spider Solitaire, and hello to a more productive work-day.

Photo courtesy of Ambro.