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4 College Digital Habits to Ditch in the Workplace

4 College Digital Habits to Ditch in the Workplace

You’ve graduated and landed the job of your dreams! Your first job after college is an important one: it starts building your career credibility, network, base salary, and experience. But with so many experienced colleagues, how can a fresh graduate show their authority and make sure that they are taken seriously? Digital habits matter – what made sense in college may no longer be the best way to operate at work. Here are a few habits to ditch (quickly) when you enter the workplace:

1. Pinging your co-workers after working hours or when their status is set to “do not disturb” or “unavailable”.

Intra-office chat programs are all the rage at work these days – they’re a great way to reach out to your colleagues who are online but in another geographical area or office location in real-time. But initiating a chat session with your boss or teammates after hours for anything that is not urgent is a no-no. If people in your time zone are online before or after work it’s probably because they have work they need to get done, and if their status is set to “do not disturb” they may be presenting at a meeting or trying to finish up something that takes concentration. They’re not looking to chat or engage with you, and instant messaging them during these times when there isn’t an emergency can make you look juvenile and inexperienced. Just don’t do it – try another less intrusive mode of communication like email if you need to reach out right then.

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2. Sending long and / or emotional emails.

One way to increase your authority immediately? Write short emails. In fact, if you can’t make your point in fewer than three to four sentences, consider replying with: “Let’s discuss.” Study the way your boss responds to email and copy it. Don’t feel you need to over explain your decision-making processes. In fact, a concrete “No”, or “I’ll pass”, or a simple “I agree” is enough to show you’re engaged and sure of your decisions. If someone wants to know why, they’ll ask you. Worried or concerned about something that happened in the office? Don’t send an emotional email to your manager. It’s hard to control tone and perception in email, and the last thing you want is for your boss to read an email and think that you are a stress case (or worse, a nut case). In those situations, wait for your next one-on-one meeting and have a discussion with your manager where you can provide context and reflection when you bring up your concerns.

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3. Sharing everything on social media.

Had the best date of your life? Called in sick last Friday to start the weekend early? Drank a little too much at the bar with your girlfriends last night? These sorts of things may have been fun to share on Facebook and Twitter when you were in college, but now that you are employed you may want to think twice. Do you really want your boss to know every last detail of your life outside of work? While we’d all like to think that the assessment of our professional performance and worthiness for advancement is completely based on merit the truth is perception is reality, and what happens on the weekends may end up influencing your image at work if you share every last detail on social media.

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4.Text Speak, Stickers and Emoticons in office communications.

You may be able to get away with the occasional smiley face or “HEHE” but if your presentations and emails are filled with text speak terms like “coz”, “l8r” or “dat”, the ‘higher ups’ are going to question your maturity level. The same goes for stickers or emoticons. A thumbs up or smiley face may make sense as an affirmation after a quick instant message exchange, but stickers littered throughout all your communication can be a huge red flag and mark you as a workplace newbie. Communicating succinctly, eloquently and professionally with words is one way to showcase your potential without highlighting your lack of experience.

Work is different than college; don’t expect the digital communication norms to be the same. Even if you lack experience, you can still build an image of yourself as a competent and confident employee worthy of recognition. Drop these four habits quickly and you’ll be well on your way!

Featured photo credit: Office Hours / Tanel Teemusk via flickr.com

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Published on November 12, 2020

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

What’s the most draining, miserable job you’ve ever had? Maybe you had a supervisor with unrealistic demands about your work output and schedule. Or perhaps, you worked under a bullying boss who frequently lost his temper with you and your colleagues, creating a toxic work environment.

Chances are, though, your terrible job experience was more all-encompassing than a negative experience with just one person. That’s because, in general, toxicity at work breeds an entire culture. Research shows abusive behavior by leaders can and often quickly spread through an entire organization.[1]

Unfortunately, working in a toxic environment doesn’t just make it miserable to show up to the office (or a Zoom meeting). This type of culture can have lasting negative effects, taking a toll on mental and physical health and even affecting workers’ personal lives and relationships.[2]

While it’s often all-encompassing, toxic culture isn’t always as blatant or clear-cut as abuse. Some of the evidence is more subtle—but it still warrants concern and action.

Have a feeling that your workplace is a toxic environment? Here are 5 surefire signs to look for.

1. People Often Say (or Imply) “That’s Not My Job”

When I first launched my company, I had a very small team. And back then, we all wore a lot of hats, simply because we had to. My colleagues and I worked tirelessly together to build, troubleshoot, and market our product, and nobody complained (at least most of the time).

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Because we were all in it together, with the same shared vision in mind, cooperation mattered so much more than job titles. Unfortunately, it’s not always that way.

In some workplaces, people adhere to their job descriptions to a fault:

  • Need help with an accounting problem? Sorry, that’s not my job.
  • Oh, you spilled your coffee in the break room? Too bad, I’m working.
  • Can’t figure out the new software? Ask IT.

While everyone has their own skillset—and time is often at a premium—cooperation is important in any workplace. An “it’s not my job” attitude is a sign of a toxic environment because it’s inherently selfish. It implies “I only care about me and what I have to get done” and that people aren’t concerned about the collective good or overall vision.[3] That type of perspective is not only bound to drain individual relationships; it also drains overall morale and productivity.

2. There’s a Lack of Diversity

Diversity is a vital part of a healthy work environment. We need the opinions and ideas of people who don’t see the world like us to move ahead. So, when leaders don’t prioritize diversity—or worse, they actively avoid it—I’m always suspicious about their character and values.

Limiting your workforce to one type of person is bound to prevent organizations from growing healthily. But even if your work environment is diverse in general, the management might prevent diverse individuals from rising to leadership positions, which only misses the point of having a diverse work environment in the first place.

Look around you. Who’s in leadership at your company? Who gets promotions and rewards most often? If the same type of people gets ahead while other individuals consistently get left behind, you might be working in a toxic environment.

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However it manifests in your workplace, keep in mind that a lack of diversity is a tell-tale sign that “bias is rampant and the wrong things are valued.”[4]

3. Feedback Isn’t Allowed

Just as individual growth hinges on being open to criticism, an organization’s well-being depends on workers’ ability to air their concerns and ideas. If management actively stifles feedback from employees, you’re probably working in a toxic environment.

But that definitely doesn’t mean nobody will air their feelings. One of the telltale signs of toxic leadership is when employees vent on the sidelines, out of management’s earshot. When I worked in a toxic environment, coworkers would often complain about higher-ups and company policies during work in private chats or after work hours.

It’s normal to get frustrated at work. That’s just a part of having a job. What isn’t normal is when dissent isn’t a part of or discouraged in the workplace. A workplace culture that suppresses constructive feedback will not be successful in the long run. It’s a sign that leadership isn’t open to new ideas, and that they’re more concerned about their own well-being than the health of the organization as a whole.

4. Quantifiable Measures Take Priority

Sales numbers, timelines, bottom lines—these metrics are, of course, important signs of how things are going in any business. But great leaders know that true success isn’t always measurable or quantifiable. More meaningful factors like workplace satisfaction, teamwork, and personal growth all contribute to and sustain these metrics.

Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, and they shouldn’t be the only concern. Measure-taking should always take a backseat to meaning-making—working together to contribute to a vision that improves people’s lives. If your workplace zones in on quantifiable measures of success, it’s probably not prioritizing what truly matters. And it’s probably also instilling a fear of failure among employees, which paralyzes employees instead of motivating them.

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5. The Policies and Rules Are Inconsistent

Every organization has its own set of unique policies and procedures. But often, unhealthy workplaces have inconsistent, unspoken “rules” that apply differently to different people. When one person gets in trouble for the same type of behavior that promotes another person, workers will feel like management plays favorites—which isn’t just unethical but also a quick way to drain morale and fuel tension in the office.[5] It only shows how incompetent the leadership is and indicates a toxic workplace.

For example, maybe there’s no “set” rule about work hours, but your manager expects certain people or departments to show up at 8 am while other individuals tend to roll in at 9 or 10 am with no real consequences. If that’s the case, then it’s likely that your organization’s leadership is more concerned with controlling people and exerting power rather than the overall good of their employees.

How to Deal With a Toxic Work Environment

The first thing to know if you’re stuck in a toxic work environment is that you’re not stuck. While it’s ultimately the company’s responsibility to make positive changes that prevent harmful actions to employees, you also have an opportunity to speak up about your concerns—or, if necessary, depart the role altogether.

If you suspect that you’re working in a toxic environment, think about how you can advocate for yourself. Start by raising your grievances about the culture in an appropriate setting, like a scheduled, one-on-one meeting with your supervisor.

Can’t imagine sitting down with your supervisor to air those problems on your own? Form some solidarity with like-minded colleagues. Approaching management might feel less overwhelming when you have a “team” who shares your views.

It doesn’t have to be an overtly confrontational discussion. Do your best to frame your concerns in a positive way by sharing with your supervisor that you want to be more productive at work, but certain problems sometimes get in the way.

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Final Thoughts

If your supervisor truly cares about the well-being of the organization, they will take your concerns seriously and actively take part in changing the toxic work environment into something more conducive to productivity.

If not, then it might be time to consider the cost of the job on your well-being and personal life. Is it worth staying just for your resume’s sake? Or could you consider a “bridge” job that allows you to exhale for a bit, even if it doesn’t “move you ahead” the way you planned?

It might not be the ideal situation, but your mental health and well-being are too important to ignore. And when you have the opportunity to refuel, you’ll be a far more valuable asset at whatever amazing job you land next.

More Tips on Dealing With a Toxic Work Environment

Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

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