It doesn’t matter if you’re a newbie or blowing out the candles on your tenth-anniversary cake. It’s always a good idea to do an inventory. It’s easy to slip into bad habits. Even as babies our temperaments shone through –– biologically-based individual differences in how we respond to our environment. This is the foundation for our personality. Unfortunately, we are often our own worst enemy –– tossing heavy barriers onto the road to success. Here are some mistakes in the workplace you should avoid.
We all have bad days. Don’t let them become a bad week, month, or even a bad career. The next time you’re complaining, stop. Don’t be a Debbie Downer –– or a Bob Bummer! Chances are neither of them are the top choice for new projects or to lead a team at their workplace. Practice gratitude at work, expressing your thanks for the little things as well as large ones. This gratitude habit will not only help you feel better, thanking others for their work will improve their lives as well. Before you know it, you’ll view challenging assignments as opportunities. Over 70% of our “mental chatter” is negative. Reframe negative comments. Instead of just asking “what if,” include its positive counterpart. What if my boss loves my new idea so much I get promoted, is a great one to try.
2. Being a Hermit
Newcomers isolate. It’s easier to focus on unfamiliar work than unfamiliar people. That’s a mistake. No, I’m not saying you should flutter around as a social butterfly. It’s just if your first instinct is to hide in your cubicle cave, fight it. If re-introducing yourself and talking to coworkers scares you, that’s an excellent reason to do it. Inevitably an invitation to a post-work gathering will arrive on a day you’re swamped or exhausted. Say “yes.” Your mom was right. Say “no” to a few invitations and people will soon stop inviting you.
3. Not Asking Questions
No one wants to look stupid. Yet barreling through a project despite your uncertainties is a recipe for disaster. If you’re starting a job, you probably weren’t hired for your knowledge of the firm’s idiosyncratic software. It’s natural to have questions. Yet asking for help is even more important if you’ve been in your position for years. It connects you to colleagues. Plus you’ll be seen as someone who puts doing a good job above ego. As Bruce Lee put it, “A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.”
4. Not Working at Work
Our overly-connected lives present a constant opportunity for interruptions. You need to take a hard look at how you spend your time in the office. Are you working hard or hardly working? How much of your work time is devoted to online shopping, texting friends, or updating social media? Are you wasting time responding to pointless emails? Unless your company is paying you to do those tasks, you should limit the time you spend doing them. Yes everyone wastes time online. That doesn’t make it right! It’s about more than getting paid for not working (an insidious form of time theft). By giving in to mindless distractions whenever a task becomes challenging, you’re limiting those moments of serendipity that only arrive through perseverance.
Although some offices are more flexible about schedules, being the last one in every morning isn’t a good look. Neither is being the first to leave. Bosses notice when employees are working as much as their actual job performance. If they see you strolling in at ten a.m, taking an hour plus lunch, then leaving at five chances are they won’t give you projects requiring diligence. This is one of the easiest mistakes in the workplace to correct. If you don’t and your company has a bad quarter, you may find yourself seeking new employment.
6. Being all about business
When I was a 23-year-old operations manager for the Pentagon’s Ministry of Defense Advisors training program, I spent time in Afghanistan. Preparing to negotiate with senior Afghan officials, I was startled when one said, “Friendship first, business later.” It took the better part of the day to see the advantage to having tea and making small talk before tough negotiations. The polling firm Gallup called the question “Do you have a best friend at work,” one of its most controversial in over three decades. That’s because many of us see a clear line between our work lives and our social lives. No one is suggesting you turn your office into a nightclub. Yet Gallup consistently finds a connection between having a close friend at work and doing a great job. Women who strongly agree they have a best friend at work are more than twice as likely to be committed to their company than those who don’t. So yes, take time to improve your bad habits. Just leave leeway for developing close friendships with coworkers.