Avoiding 5 Fatal Workplace Mistakes

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An afternoon at the ballgame with her boyfriend sounded to Jessica like a good idea. Sun, relaxation, America’s pastime — a picture-perfect respite from her crowded inbox, pesky coworkers and overwhelming projects. So she called in sick. And, just as she planned, she had a fantastic time. That is, until her boss caught her snuggling up to her boyfriend and a bratwurst on the sports report of the evening news.

You don’t have to be a baseball fan to ruin your reputation at the workplace. In fact, there are quite a few ways to send your career to the curb with the weekly recycling. Here’s a short list to browse to avoid delivering a sheepish apology in your boss’s office, or, worse yet, getting kicked out of the office entirely.

  • Be on time. Set your clocks ten minutes early. Record your favorite late-night shows so you can watch them when you get home from work. Whatever you need to do to make sure you’re not darting around office corners like Jet Lee to avoid being caught late once again. And, remember: Punctuality applies to deadlines, too.
  • The Rumor Mill. Everyone loves office gossip. Like slowing down for a car wreck, it’s a perversely unavoidable fact of human nature. Remember playing that game in grade school where everyone in class repeats a phrase to their neighbor and by the time it reaches the last recipient it’s been twisted into something completely different? The lesson applies now, too. Whatever your opinion is of Sarah’s new hairstyle or work ethic, Sarah will eventually hear what you said — and it will inevitably sound far worse and mean-spirited.
  • Be a Team Player. You don’t have to be a jock to understand the importance of team-building. Go it alone at work and that’s exactly where you’ll stay. You’re not Gilligan — this island comes with a desk for company … and a pair of binoculars to watch as promotions pass you by.
  • Office Romance. You love the way she laughs at all your jokes. You love the way he commands the copy machine after lunch. But, in the end, you’re better off leaving When Harry Met Sally in your DVD collection. Too many flirtatious cubicle visits are a good way to visit the unemployment line. Office trysts may be coming in vogue with Generation Y, but sexual harassment cases and suspect job promotions make getting your groove on with a co-worker pretty risky business.
  • Dress for Success. Unless your name’s Giselle or Tyrese, your office isn’t a catwalk. And what looked cute at the club isn’t likely to impress your boss. Save your hipster look for the weekends, and remember that business casual means clean-cut and professional, not scraggly beard and Birkenstocks.

Getting a job these days is hard. Always remind yourself that excelling in the job you do get requires the same attention to detail that landed you the job in the first place. Take some advice from Jessica: Save your best rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” for the weekends.


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