Career columnist Anita Bruzzese has covered the workplace from all its angles. She’s been both an employer and an employee, and as a business journalist, has interviewed hundreds of top managers and workplace experts. In the course of her career she’s come to understand that many employees and their bosses are simply not on the same page – as she puts it, many aren’t even in the same book to begin with.
This of course leads to nothing but trouble between both bosses and employees – and is nothing but career suicide for those who can’t play by the rules.
In this simply-written and much needed book, Bruzzese reveals the most common complaints from bosses regarding their employees and what they do wrong. She groups these complaints into sections, discusses them and then offers advice on how those who wittingly (or unwittingly) commit these errors can shape up, fly right and at least be considered for a position come promotion time – or not be fired when times get tough.
The individual traits or practices the author identifies are grouped in logical order, making them and the relationships between them easy to understand.
Bosses Don’t Promote Employees Who Make Them Feel Uncomfortable 1. Treating the office like it’s your love shack Getting into relationships at work can be troublesome – partners can distract each other and/or display inappropriate behavior that makes other people very uncomfortable. Also, relationships between officemates that end badly are usually very problematic for everyone. Office relationships are bound to take place whether they’re permitted or not. If you are bent on having a relationship with someone you work with, behave discreetly; keep away from the usual haunts; remain friendly with others; and no PDA! If one of you supervises the other, things are bound to get even more troublesome – they can lead to charges of sexual harassment. 2. Punching the soda machine when you’re stressed out and ticked off Bosses can see uncontrolled emotion as a potential danger to both your coworkers and your boss himself. It can result in written documentation that can lead to a suspension, dismissal or even a lawsuit.
Bosses Don’t Promote Employees Who Make Them Feel Uncomfortable Admit that there is a problem to begin with, and take steps to deal with the stress in ways that don’t involve hurting someone at work – such as keeping a job journal and noting what happened at work; visiting the doctor and getting a check-up; simply walking around when things are heating up; and address personal concerns outside the office. 3. Goofing off on a business trip Regardless of wherever you go on business trips (and of however “informal” things get where you go), your workplace follows you. It doesn’t matter that you’ve gone out of the building; you’re still doing it on the company’s pay. You have to watch out for those moments when you might say and/or do something you might really regret later on – especially when tired or drunk. You can also avoid dressing down (you might meet someone from work on the road); avoid flirting at all costs, whether single or married (all the more reason not to do so!); don’t “go out” too much and spend all your time sightseeing and all that; and watch out for your equipment and data – stay safe and secure.
Bosses Don’t Promote Employees Who Make Them Feel Uncomfortable 4. Earning a reputation as a whiner, drama queen or general pain in the neck What other people think of you at work really matters. It’s important that you fit right in as a member of the workplace team. And even though your boss might not interact with you on a daily basis, you can bet she’ll be giving credence to what other people say. Whether you deserve being called so or not, you could simply take control of your life and actually do something about your problems instead of just mouthing off; be honest and don’t exaggerate; become more self-sufficient; suck it up and take care of it yourself; lend a hand to others to forget about your own troubles; or find professional help. 5. Discussing your personal beliefs at work You can really get disruptive when talking about your personal beliefs at work – this always triggers strong emotions. Tempers will get raised and people will be distracted from what they’re supposed to be doing. Plus there’s always the possibility of harassment.
Bosses Don’t Promote Employees Who Make Them Feel Uncomfortable To keep your personal beliefs from getting in the way of your success, be realistic (not everyone can or will share your beliefs), be discreet (don’t proclaim them openly), keep it off company time (no personal business at work), and be cool when someone talks to you about it. 6. Telling dirty jokes and cussing on the job This sort of behavior is not only rude but also worrisome – it can lead to charges of sexual harassment. In addition, even if it doesn’t go that far, it can polarize your work environment by offending many people. To avoid problems, always figure someone’s eavesdropping, so always watch what you say; fine people little amounts for every swear word they say; think about why you do it (to impress?, to intimidate?); and consider your future (your boss isn’t likely to have good memories of you if you keep it up).
Bosses Don’t Promote Employees Who Make Them Feel Uncomfortable 7. Having questionable personal integrity Real integrity means that you don’t lie about what you’re doing. You work when you’re supposed to and don’t lie about what you do while on the job. And if your integrity’s questioned, it may prove very hard indeed to clean up your reputation. Misdemeanors include lying (a way of controlling and manipulating people and situations that can be grounds for mistrust and even dismissal), blame (bosses do NOT appreciate finger pointing), sticky fingers (thievery is punishable by firing and/or criminal charges), not keeping your word, faking an absence (for which other people may have to work doubly hard to cover for you), and hanging around with the wrong people.
Bosses Get Rid of Employees With Too Many Bad Habits 8. Blogging about your job If you want to hang on to your job, don’t write about it in your personal online diary or website! The boss will find out, and you’ll get it for sure. It’s a very bad idea to go online and say bad things about your company and/or the people you work with, because even if you think that your posting is completely anonymous, it can and most likely will be discovered. And for those who try to hide behind the right to free speech, companies will argue just as noisily about their right to protect their reputation in the marketplace, and will stop any action that may work against them – even if it takes firing an employee. 9. Having poor writing and spelling skills More and more, writing and spelling skills are becoming part and parcel of people’s competencies at work. The fast pace of work nowadays means that bosses are always on the lookout for people who don’t need too much attention regarding the work they churn out – and quite a few people do because of their spelling and writing problems.
Bosses Get Rid of Employees With Too Many Bad Habits To improve your writing, read (to get familiar with sentence formation, proper spelling and the like), take care not to outsmart yourself by coming up with needlessly convoluted sentences, work to improve (you need to work at writing to be able to write well), avoid slang, use correct names, reread your work, and be concise. 10. Failing to write thank-you notes A nice handwritten thank-you note lets you manage your image and reputation. Whereas a badly done note sets your reputation back by that much. Some tips: It’s okay to send e-mail, but nothing beats the personal feel of a good handwritten note. Also, keep it simple and sincere. Next, stop putting writing the note up – if it’s terribly late it’ll be awkward. Also be prepared – get some thank-you notes ready in advance if you can. Lastly, learn from others and keep some of the better-written notes you’ve received so they can serve as examples.
Bosses Get Rid of Employees With Too Many Bad Habits 11. Committing e-mail blunders Some people treat e-mail like they would a phone conversation and make them terribly informal. The trouble with that is, e-mail’s recorded and can be sent out to people ad infinitum and thus can last practically forever – “lawsuit heaven” in lawyer lingo. Think very carefully before you send that email. If it’s not vital and only “neat,” then it may not at all be suitable for sending out – and certainly not to everyone on your contact list. You might be better off bringing it up in an actual conversation. To be safe, keep it strictly business (especially if you work in a company that has absolutely no sense of humor). 12. Failing to speak intelligently The inability to speak well in the workplace is a growing problem that hurts careers. A limited vocabulary can cause you to miss information and ideas from the higher-ups because you can’t keep up with them – which can be fatal especially in the faster-paced workplaces. Also, unless you speak well, others will lose interest in what you say very fast.
Bosses Get Rid of Employees With Too Many Bad Habits To improve yourself in this respect, focus on self-improvement (you have to work on improving yourself), spend time with people who can speak well, practice so you can get comfortable, don’t rush when you speak, and avoid slang altogether. 13. Wearing the wrong thing to work If you dress inappropriately according to your company’s standards, it creates a less-than serious environment that’s very distracting. Even in those companies that don’t have clearly defined dress codes, the bosses do care and notice what their employees are wearing. And poorly dressed employees aren’t usually considered when it’s time to send the best staff to meet the clients. Try to avoid being too casual – no clothes for staying in or going out to clubs, for instance. No shirts with statements. No clothes that reveal too much skin. Cover your tattoos if you have any; shave daily. Check if your perfume or cologne is too strong or if you smell bad. Remember that neatness always counts!
Bosses Get Rid of Employees With Too Many Bad Habits 14. Behaving immaturely at company parties Company parties are still company events and should be seen as such – not venues for people to let it all hang loose, embarrass themselves and incur the boss’s anger. This is common sense – and yet time and time again employees make this mistake. Limit your drinking (and make sure you don’t drink if you’re driving). Be social and go around and meet other people (just make sure you don’t flirt). Avoid groups that are getting too boisterous. Be responsible for the people you bring. Dress appropriately. Lastly, use good manners at all times. (And don’t just ditch the event!) 15. Being disorganized A worker who is unorganized and messy at work is probably not working at a very high level of productivity and efficiency. Neater workers are more likely to get noticed, appreciated and promoted. Messy workspaces do NOT say that you’re working; they simply say that you’re disorganized.
Bosses Get Rid of Employees With Too Many Bad Habits Get rid of unnecessary stuff! Dump the junk and file what needs to be filed. Try organizing for a few minutes every day, and every six months, purge your space to make sure that no clutter ends up creeping in. 16. Being a poor listener It can be difficult to listen in today’s world where our devices are constantly going off and our workmates are clamoring for our attention. But it’s really very necessary to get to know what the boss is saying – if you don’t listen, you’re going to mess up. Plain and simple. Don’t interrupt – if you do, the other person will suspect that you aren’t paying any attention to what he/she is saying. Don’t finish the other person’s sentences for him or her; this is very rude. Ignore everything else when someone is talking. Lastly, after talking, summarize what you just heard or thought you heard so you can get things clearly.
Bosses Get Rid of Employees With Too Many Bad Habits 17. Losing sleep Chronic lack of sleep takes a toll on body and mind alike. Daily life becomes more stressful and we become less productive; we find it harder and harder to concentrate and become cranky, forgetful and more likely to call in sick. If you find it hard to sleep, a lifestyle change (such as avoidance of stimulants like alcohol, nicotine or caffeine and making the sleeping environment comfortable, quiet, cool and dark) may be in order. Or you may simply need to sleep more if this is not the issue. The trick is to take action right away once a sleep-related problem is encountered. 18. Using your personal cell phone too much Most bosses don’t mind when they see you use your personal cell phone from time to time. However, the more you use it, the more obvious it is that you’re taking care of personal business at work. In addition, people get offended hearing other people’s private conversations.
Bosses Get Rid of Employees With Too Many Bad Habits Set a time limit for using your personal cell phone. Establish rules – no calls at work unless it’s really urgent, for instance. Don’t use it when other people can overhear your conversation. Put safety first – no calling when driving. Or, just turn it off! 19. Acting like a boor at business meals Good manners need to feel natural to you so that when a business meal takes place, you can concentrate on business and not on, say, which fork to use, and you won’t be offending the people you’re eating with. Practice your manners when eating outside the office. Plan ahead what to eat if you can – avoid messy food. Be considerate of others – be polite and let guests order first. Watch your alcohol intake. Wait to begin eating until everyone is served. Take small bites. Don’t place your elbows on the table or lean. Pick at your teeth in the restroom. Lastly, remain attentive to the business at hand.
Bosses Don’t Give Great Projects to Those Who Can’t Play Nice and Get Along with Others 20. Not appreciating coworkers Everyone has to realize that no one can do a job alone. It usually takes a cast of hundreds to finish one important project – from the most visible heads to the “perimeter” employees who don’t seem to be contributing too much to the company. We have to take the time to get to know these people as people and appreciate their contributions to the company. Educate yourself about the job these people do, and include them in the process from day one. Avoid blaming them for frustrations. And be respectful of them, especially the ones who’ve been with the company long. 21. Failing to delegate Delegation is a chance for you to do the work that best grows your skills and abilities while helping someone else do the same. It is NOT dumping the work you don’t like onto someone else, or asking someone else to help you with no explanation or follow-up support.
Bosses Don’t Give Great Projects to Those Who Can’t Play Nice and Get Along with Others Target the right person for you to delegate to. (Don’t delegate if you don’t have a proper person to delegate to.) Be supportive of your coworkers’ efforts. Set clear goals and deadlines to make sure you stay on track. Lastly, keep communication lines open and clear to make sure everyone is abreast of what’s happening. 22. Being intolerant Workers have to realize that talent comes in all kinds of packages and that diverse teams reap all kinds of advantages. Companies depend on the constant generation of new and creative solutions in order to be able to compete against some increasingly fierce competitors. Be more aware of what you say around others. Avoid others who appear to enjoy being discriminatory. Speak up when other people appear to be disparaging of minorities. Lastly, be open to criticism yourself and apologize for having been offensive, if you are at fault.
Bosses Don’t Give Great Projects to Those Who Can’t Play Nice and Get Along with Others 23. Disrespecting a mentor Mentors are senior employees who volunteer or are designated to take more junior employees under their wing to bring them along or help them develop. They are exceedingly valuable; without them your career can easily stagnate if you have no one to help you navigate the tricky paths of the workplace; which is why such people should be given the utmost respect. Choose the right mentor and set the right goals. Find a mutual benefit so that the mentor can benefit as well from interacting with you. Pay it forward – hope and plan to help someone else in a similar manner, someday. 24. Not getting to know others in the company If you don’t widen your circle, you run a real risk of being less useful to your boss and division. You limit yourself and your potential to make meaningful impact.
Bosses Don’t Give Great Projects to Those Who Can’t Play Nice and Get Along with Others To maximize interaction with others, focus on them (remember that everyone is important or may be so in the future), understand the challenges that come up during initial coordination, pay attention (get an impression of the other person to commit his or her name to memory) and foster communication (get all relevant numbers). 25. Giving feedback that is deliberately hurtful If the boss gets wind of you being rude or snippy towards others, then you’re going to be considered a problem – you can’t be allowed to join polite or important company if you might end up treating them that way. Make sure you know what you’re talking about before you actually talk. Avoid personal attacks and just focus on work and what needs to be done. Don’t judge. Finally, be realistic and don’t offer feedback on something like appearance or limitations.
Bosses Don’t Give Great Projects to Those Who Can’t Play Nice and Get Along with Others 26. Fostering an offensive workspace While your boss wants you to be comfortable, you must remember that your workstation is company property and failing to make the area professional enough is tantamount to a lack of professional responsibility. Keep it clean and neat – always and under any circumstance. Keep your voice (and music) down so that you don’t intrude on others’ work. Save political, social, potentially offensive and/or religious items for your home instead of the office. 27. Gossiping Whether workplace gossip is true or not, it’s definitely a waste of time and also can potentially ruin reputations even if what is said isn’t true. It destroys trust, encourages people to lie to one another and can lead to nasty legal battles.
Bosses Don’t Give Great Projects to Those Who Can’t Play Nice and Get Along with Others Avoid being labeled a gossip by evading opportunities to listen to or spread gossip; sticking to facts and the truth, always; being careful with your words so that the gossips know you aren’t just willing to chatter about anything; and live the Golden Rule – do unto others as you want others to do unto you. 28. Not giving – or accepting – an apology “ I’m sorry” – a simple combination of words – becomes more complicated at work. Some avoid apologizing out of pride or fear that it will put them in a position of weakness. Others avoid accepting apologies out of pride as well. Either way, it affects morale and the ability to work together. Don’t go overboard with any of it – make a sincere apology or receive an apology with grace. Don’t fidget, look someone in the eye when apologizing. Keep it private; the world doesn’t have to know about what’s going on.
Bosses Don’t Give Leadership Roles to those Who Lack Maturity and Common Sense 29. Crying at work It’s a mistake to do this for whatever reason you think justifies it; crying says nothing more than “I’ve lost control.” If you feel like you’re about to bawl, get yourself out of other people’s vicinity. A good cry can help sometimes, but stay away from others. Learn what it is that triggers your tears and know when to avoid it. Look for support from someone you can trust and depend on. Speak up to try to let your emotions out before your tears build up. Take care of yourself; try not to let yourself get too stressed. 30. Caving in to a bully Bosses expect you to handle bullies on your own. If you have to be rescued once, it’ll most likely have to be done again. Also, it’s a proving situation – those capable of leadership roles have to be able to stand up for themselves. Stay confident and alert; bullies pick on easy targets. Ignore the lies and verbal assaults. Break through your fears and stand up to the bully. Assert your right to be treated with respect and demand it from the bully. Report him or her to those who will listen.
Bosses Don’t Give Leadership Roles to those Who Lack Maturity and Common Sense 31. Failing to learn from mistakes Mistakes happen to the best of us, and how we treat mistakes really separates the grain from the chaff. Your boss is looking beyond the error and wants to see the willingness to not only correct it, but to develop a strategy to learn from it and see that it doesn’t happen again. Accept responsibility and avoid blaming someone else for the mistake. Respond professionally and competently to it. Investigate and consider changes; be flexible. Lastly, laugh when you can without being hysterical or trite. 32. Being unable to overcome obstacles Bosses always get exasperated with workers who respond so poorly to adversity that they give up and take off the first time the job doesn’t go exactly as they want. If you’re this sort of person, then you’re the weakest link in the chain.
Bosses Don’t Give Leadership Roles to those Who Lack Maturity and Common Sense To learn to overcome obstacles, outline the worst-case scenario (face your fears by writing down the potential pitfalls), bounce back from obstacles and be willing to fight, envision success, be realistic, get inputs from others, invest in confidence and read inspirational books. 33. Having too much – or too little – confidence Overconfidence often breeds big problems. The overconfident are usually seen as having false bravado and are either secretly insecure or jerks, plain and simple. Employees with little confidence are just as troublesome; bosses must often spend extra energy just getting them to believe that they can get the work done at all. Solutions: get to work and work up plans of action with timetables; welcome challenges and set clear attainable goals for yourself; understand that mistakes happen and they’re just temporary detours; and get a fresh perspective on things to help you regain equilibrium.
Bosses Don’t Give Leadership Roles to those Who Lack Maturity and Common Sense 34. Neglecting to write things down Bosses don’t like going over it one more time and having to repeat to workers who fail to get it right the first time. You interrupt their train of thought in that way. Plus, one’s memory is a tricky thing to rely on. Always make sure to take notes when issues are time-sensitive, when the boss calls you into his office, when meetings are attended, when talking on the phone and when complaints are made. You can take better notes by practicing beforehand, asking questions, repeating key points and being better organized. 35. Asking for a raise you don’t deserve Many companies are committed to rewarding employees who deserve it. Employers are very aware of what the competition is paying and they know that they have to pay well to be able to retain top workers.
Bosses Don’t Give Leadership Roles to those Who Lack Maturity and Common Sense When asking for a raise, build your case well (look at how your performance went above and beyond what is expected and how your contributions really helped); get noticed; provide documentation; and time it right (don’t do it when the boss is too busy or when the company’s in a bit of a tight squeeze). 36. Lacking knowledge of current events Employees are supposed to prove that they are able to grasp the bigger picture, and if they lack this knowledge, the boss might worry about the employee’s learning capacity. Also, being oblivious to current events may mean you end up embarrassing both yourself and the boss. Tune in to the news – scan the headlines every morning, but at least once a week, find a news magazine that will provide a deeper look at the issue. Also try to join a civic cause or volunteer at community activities.
Bosses Don’t Give Leadership Roles to those Who Lack Maturity and Common Sense 37. Holding grudges If you’re holding a grudge for a perceived injustice at work, either big or small, then you’re stuck at it. Your feelings prevent you from giving yourself 100% to the job. Live in the real world – you can’t rewrite history and change how things went. Hold yourself accountable – you might think you’re mad at someone else, but you may be mad at yourself for a related reason. Put things in perspective and take a better look at the world around you. 38. Giving lackluster speeches or presentations Being asked to make a presentation or give a speech is nothing short of an honor; it’s a recognition that others are impressed enough with you that they want to learn from you. The secret is proper preparation and making sure you understand your audience and what is expected from you. Set the agenda and explain to the group what you’ll be doing. Manage the time. Keep answers short and to the point. Lastly, summarize with impact by giving a statement and a plan of action to move forward.
Failure to Give Full Support to Your Employer Says You’re not Ready for an Investment of Time and Resources 39. Squandering time at seminars Bosses send employees to seminars for them to learn something; if not from the sessions per se, then from the other attendees. If you’re disorganized or distracted by other things, then you’re wasting your boss’s investment in you. Plan ahead and choose the sessions that would be best for you to attend. Pack appropriately and organize your cards. In general, stay organized for the duration of the seminar itself. 40. Skipping company-sponsored events Being seen as someone who is supportive of company efforts can boost your standing with both the boss and the boss’s boss. Plus they’re unparalleled opportunities for networking. So events such as these definitely should not be skipped. Be prepared to talk and network with whoever you may meet. Listen and learn from these people. Mind your manners and stay supportive no matter how disagreeable the event turns out to be.
Failure to Give Full Support to Your Employer Says You’re not Ready for an Investment of Time and Resources 41. Ignoring the company’s goals Those who have a don’t-care attitude about their company’s goals are in trouble. This sort of attitude becomes a toxic disease in the workplace, and the boss will definitely want to eliminate the source of that disease. To keep focused on these goals: get into the boss’s head and know and understand these goals. Do one better – find ways to improve a process or operate more efficiently. Ask questions to improve the goals. Claim projects that others have dropped or abandoned. 42. Dodging meetings Meetings such as these are extremely valuable learning opportunities. You have a chance to closely watch, learn from and listen to colleagues and bosses, as well as show yourself off (in a subtle way of course). Be prepared. Leave the cell phone and pager, or turn them off. Sit beside someone different each time. Don’t keep watching the clock; focus on the meeting. Try to participate. Don’t be shy. Don’t be late!
Failure to Give Full Support to Your Employer Says You’re not Ready for an Investment of Time and Resources 43. Not going beyond your job description Stepping outside the job description is more important than ever these days! Companies are under terrific pressure to compete and so they rely on their employees to know what skills they possess and how this can help the bottom line – regardless of what their positions or jobs or roles might be. To add more value to your job: be a cheerleader and be supportive and offer recognition; take action if you see something that needs to be done; educate yourself (ask the company to help and your boss will take notice); be fearless and show everyone you want to face new challenges; ask for feedback. 44. Neglecting new coworkers If the new kid on the block can’t get up to speed as quickly as possible, everyone pays the price, the company included. Some ways to help out include pointing out what they might need to know or see or do; helping them jot down brief information; making the territory familiar by pointing out places to eat and other such landmarks; be inclusive, ask them to come along to lunch or coffee; and be a mentor.
Failure to Give Full Support to Your Employer Says You’re not Ready for an Investment of Time and Resources 45. Fighting change People are in the habit of blaming their bosses or the economy for the stress at work. But it’s a mistake – people have to understand that what they really stress about is change in general. It’s not the situation; it’s your response to it that really matters. Those who can cope with change are of course the most valuable to an employer. Look deep and see how you really feel about change. Avoid blaming others. Open your mind and be open to new things, even those you thought you’d never enjoy or even tolerate. Build support – find open-minded people in your organization. Take some risks and embrace new things like you did when you were a kid. Lastly, focus on learning!
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