Careers are not easy to build. Unfortunately there is no clear road-map to success that highlights an exact process to follow that will guarantee us a fruitful and happy career and life. However, there are steps that we can take to help increase our chances.
Throughout my career so far, I have made and observed others make a great number of mistakes. I have also accomplished and watched others do some really great and important things successfully which resulted in significant business, career and personal advancement.
When I look back at my career and life and those of others who I either personally know or have followed through the media, there are six things that stand out in my mind as the most devastating and irreversible mistakes we can make in our professional and personal lives.
Here are the 6 things you should never do at work:
1. React to ANYTHING out of rage or spite
I’m sure you remember Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who in 2010 dramatically quit his job and made a scene by sliding down the emergency exit of a flight he was working prior to its takeoff. He was arrested and burned not only the bridge with JetBlue or any airline for that matter, but is probably not too likely to be considered a serious candidate by many organizations because of his very public, unprofessional, and explosive resignation.
Since most of us spend the majority of our waking hours at work we will undoubtedly face times of anger, frustration, fear, and the whole range of emotions that make us who we are. As much as it is important to be genuine and honest with our colleagues, and ourselves, it is important that we do so respectfully of everyone around us and of the place where we work.
When faced with a challenging situation, take time to internalize it and cool off before reacting. An adverse reaction out of anger or spite rarely accomplishes anything positive both at work and in our personal lives.
If you’ve ever read Stephen Covey’s book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, or Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, you might remember that the most immediate and efficient way to get a point across to someone is rarely the most effective at getting the results we hope for.
2. Betray your coworkers or friends
Remember the expression your parents hammered into your head while you were growing up?
“Treat others the way you’d like to be treated.”
Well that applies to the people we work with too.
Unfortunately I see it, or should I say hear it almost everyday. I’ve been guilty of it myself in the past, and it’s not something that I’m proud of. I hear people mocking and sabotaging the reputation and careers of their coworkers, bosses talking poorly about employees to other employees, and people putting down friends behind their backs. No one is immune to this and few can honestly say that they’ve never committed any of these workplace social crimes.
The bottom line is that gossiping about others shows a sever lack of integrity on the part of those partaking in the gossip. Talking behind someone’s back never justly resolves any real issues.
Betraying your friends and colleagues is an intentional and malicious act that in the long run will come back to haunt you.
“What goes around comes around.”
Sorry for all the clichés, but from my experience this is 100% true.
3. Bring your personal baggage to the office
We all have lives outside of work and at times our personal lives can be demanding and taxing on our physical, emotional and mental states. Seeing as many of us develop strong friendships with our colleagues at work, it can be easy at times to talk to them about personal matters during work hours.
The problem that this creates is that now not only are we ourselves distracted with our issues, but we are now distracting our work friends and keeping them from doing their jobs also. We are all human and can have trouble separating our personal state of mind from our professional state of mind, but by continuing to bring our personal affairs into the office with us, we are hurting not only our chances of success, but the chances of our close colleagues.
If you wish to share your personal challenges with a colleague whom you trust, then only do so outside of business hours or on breaks. If your problems become too hard to manage, seek professional help. The benefits, both personal and professional, that you can realize by seeking the help of a therapist, counselor, or coach will often times surprise you in a very positive way.
Most of us lie because we are hiding truths. We hide these truths because we are either afraid of certain consequences or because we feel that the will do us more harm than good and that we will get further ahead by telling a lie.
The issue with this is that when you lie you are accepting the truth as a weakness. Rather than facing the truth and growing as an individual, you are choosing to avoid reality and run from your challenges.
In the workplace and in our personal lives, it takes a lot of energy and focus to keep up with the lies we tell. What I’ve learned from my past mistakes is that the truth usually comes out eventually. If you lie about your experience to get a job, the truth will come out when you start your new role and appear lost or make certain mistakes that you would have avoided if you had the skills and experience you claimed to have.
When we lie about something today, we are jeopardizing our credibility, reputation, and possibilities for tomorrow.
5. Complain about your job, company, or coworkers
Before my corporate career, I worked as a sales rep for a large national electronics retail chain to pay for my schooling. After working at the company for 3 years the company was taken over by an even larger retail chain from the U.S. who decided to change the commission structure. The new structure made it harder for me and the other sales reps to earn what we had become accustomed to.
In my displeasure I started complaining to my colleagues and manager about how I hated the new changes and how unhappy they were making me rather than focusing on selling more. Eventually I was let go because my sales started to drop and my toxic attitude became a liability for the company. I was left to scramble to find a new job.
Were I to have been more respectful and approached the situation from a different angle, such as talking about my aspirations and what I enjoyed most and were most successful at in my job, perhaps I could have negotiated an increase in my base salary or even a promotion to Assistant Manager.
“Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”
These days corporations are placing more and more importance on company culture. If you make it a habit to speak negatively about your company or it’s management you are not doing yourself any favors.
The next time you feel like you’ve reached a dead-end in your job, rather than expressing your displeasure to your boss or coworkers, try to work with your manager to find ways that you can advance with the current company. Highlight the strengths that you’ve demonstrated on the job and try to find a solution for one of your company’s current challenges. I know many people who succeeded at creating exciting new roles for themselves by presenting an innovative option to their managers. It may not work every time, but it’s worth a try. If it doesn’t work then you are no further behind from where you started and you can then decide what your next step should be.
Whatever the situation, you will get further ahead in life by communicating respectfully and effectively with others.
6. Burn your bridges
Have you heard of the saying“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know?”
There are few things truer than that!
I’ve learned that the single most influential element to success in business is really the people who we build relationships with. Having the right skills and abilities is extremely important to achieving your goals and growing both in business and as individuals, but you still need the help of others along the way.
Everyone we work with today might one day either need our help or be able to help us. If we treat others with respect and are genuine towards them we are able to form many potential powerful relationships with our bosses, our employees, our coworkers, our mentors, people we meet at events, and anyone really.
We don’t have to befriend everyone. Although we should choose our friends carefully and avoid those whom we feel we can’t trust, we should never burn our bridges.
It sometimes takes just one other person to change the rest of your life, so treat those you encounter with dignity and respect.