Are You Committing These 12 Workplace Gaffes?
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Occupational Hazards1 of 13
By Natasha Burton
Everyone knows that constantly showing up late to meetings or bad-mouthing the boss will eventually land you in the unemployment line. But there are a number of smaller transgressions that can slowly diminish your workplace cred. We've rounded up the 12 most common 9-to-5 offenses—how many have you committed?
The Daily Grind2 of 13
The first thing many people do when they get to the office is grab a hot cup of coffee—it's a necessary ritual for starting the day. Don't get a reputation for taking the last ounces and leaving the pot empty for the next person. "This shows the rest of your co-workers that you are only thinking of yourself, rather than acting as a team player," says workplace and corporate etiquette expert Diane Gottsman. "This behavior can be compared to your work ethic—it also looks as if you are trying to get away with not making another pot, which translates into L-A-Z-Y."
Something to Talk About3 of 13
Callista Gould, certified etiquette instructor of the Culture and Manners Institute, says that one of the biggest pet peeves she's heard from managers is when an employee only communicates via email—both with clients and with colleagues. "This can be perceived as laziness, but it might just really be shyness or lack of experience in face-to-face communication," she says. When you have something important to say, she suggests getting in the habit of picking up the phone or stopping by a co-worker's desk.
Excuses, Excuses4 of 13
Failing to take responsibility for your mistakes will not only make you look bad, but constantly blaming others will also make people wary of working with you, says Alex Zorach, co-founder of Why This Way, a consensus-based organization. "This is a sure road to career stagnation or, in extreme cases, termination," he warns. "If you've made a mistake, own up to the role that you played to show that you are responsible and simply say, 'I'm sorry I didn't get you that report on time.'"
Get the Message?5 of 13
When you're stuck in a meeting that you don't think applies to you or your role, it can be all too tempting to sneakily answer emails—or text your girlfriends about happy hour—from under the table. But, sadly, this move is far more obvious than you think it is. "Texting under the table shows that this person is inattentive and distracted by her personal life," Gould says. "Employers want someone who is mentally present as well as physically present."
Space Invader6 of 13
Even though hugging in the workplace is more acceptable nowadays, especially in women-dominated offices, remember to keep people's personal space in mind, warns Kathi Elster, executive coach and the co-author of Working With You Is Killing Me. "Hand shaking is proper in American cultural business, but hugging or touching someone else may be considered unacceptable to some people," she says. How do you deflect an unwanted hug if you're on the receiving end without being rude? "Say, 'Please don't take it personally but I'm not a hugger, a handshake is more my speed.'"
Ambush Alert7 of 13
In short, your boss doesn't want to chat about your weekly report when you two happen to be washing your hands side-by-side in the restroom. Personal time should be respected and so too should your co-workers' space—which is why hosting a pop-up conference in the middle of the office is always a no-no. "Of course there will be chitchat in the hallways and lunchrooms," says Stacia Pierce, CEO of Ultimate Lifestyle Enterprises. "But if it’s a highly confidential subject or the meeting is more than five minutes, use the conference room and shut the door."
The Speed Demon8 of 13
Despite the pressure you might feel to get an assignment completed ASAP, the tortoise wins the race when it comes to completing a project. "Flying through an assigned project is a recipe for disaster," says Shara Senderoff, co-founder and CEO of Intern Sushi. "A finalized project that includes big-picture thinking is more effective than the one that lands on my desk first. I have employees who race to show me how quickly they can get something done and I end up having to add so much to the project that I find myself doing the job I asked them to do in the first place."
Clear the Air9 of 13
Leave your scented candles, diffusers, plug-ins—and your perfume—at home, says etiquette expert April Masini. While you may like the smell, there are co-workers who may be sensitive to it—or who may even find the scent offensive.
Coming Clean10 of 13
Don't be that person who leaves the communal kitchen splattered with food, warns Debra Wheatman, career coach and writer for the Jobs channel of NewYork.com. "Leaving a mess for others to clean is disrespectful and presumptuous," she says. "Failure to show respect will likely result in other people talking about this behavior—certainly not a favorable position for someone who wants to make a good impression."
Voices Carry11 of 13
"Your co-workers are not interested in overhearing the argument you're having with your mother or boyfriend, or the issue with your mechanic," Wheatman says. While it's expected that you may need to take a personal call or two during your workday, keep them short—or take them outside. "If you're talking loudly on your phone for all to hear, you're telling people, in an overt manner, that you don't respect or care about the work that they're doing," she says.
Private Matters12 of 13
You may be chummy with your office pals but it's important to figure out where the boundaries are—which can be tricky. Remember, you aren't lounging poolside with a friend, you are in an office. "Usually, you won't know when you have stepped on someone's personal boundaries until it's too late," Elster says. Always ask your co-workers before divulging the details of last night’s date—or inquiring about your cube mate's love life.
Negativity Spreader13 of 13
Commiserating about office-related issues once in a while is one thing, but if you're the person who always complains first, and often, you need a new attitude. "In today's competitive workforce, you must be positive and present your best self at all times," Pierce says. "Put your energies towards providing useful solutions and you will make yourself more valuable to the team and to your boss." It's all about mind over matter: If you refocus your attitude, you just might find yourself a whole lot happier in your day-to-day—which the boss will surely notice, in a good way.