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Office Habits That Could Damage Your Career

Office Habits That Could Damage Your Career

Working in an office brings up a dynamic landscape of interactions that can be difficult to navigate. Whether you’re content in your current position, or looking to climb the corporate ladder, the way you interact with your colleagues in the office is vital.

“When I used to work for a large PR company, I can remember a few times when colleagues that were consistently blaming other people for their mistakes (and running to the boss over minor issues) got found out and were ostracised by the rest of the team.” – Lorraine Barker, Workfish

While every office is unique, there are some bad office habits that could eventually lead to damaging your career prospects at your current place of work, and any future opportunities. To ensure you don’t hamper your career, I’ve listed a few traits that you should avoid:

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Refusal to Admit Mistakes

Everybody makes mistakes; that’s just part of life. However, what can really irritate coworkers are constant attempts to shift the blame, either onto another colleague or on an external issue. Not only is this an irresponsible attitude which will stall your own development, but it also turns your colleagues against you. They won’t feel that they can trust you to get a job done, or to tell/support them if things are going wrong–it gives the impression that you’re only in it for yourself.

Poor Leadership

It can be a fine line between leading and being led for a manager or supervisor in an office environment, especially if they have been recently promoted. When I say leading, I don’t mean putting up posters with motivational slogans on the walls or adopting a gung-ho (my way is always right) attitude to decision-making. You should be strong in the face of questions from team members and make sure they know who is in charge–don’t allow yourself to be led by others.

The Sloppy Eater

I once worked across from a guy who ate all day long. He ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the office and was continually snacking in between. Normally, this wouldn’t bother me (we all get peckish), but this particular man slurped, swirled, spat and gulped with every single bite, enough to make an entire row of cubicles resort to headsets or reserving conference rooms just to get some peace. Not only was this habit disgusting and distracting, it affected how everyone interacted with him on a professional level. It’s hard not to be annoyed by constant mouth noises, but then to turn around and try to talk about a client or internal project with the source of your annoyance, and some of that frustration and revulsion is bound to carry over.

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Talking Too Much

This may sound like a harsh trait to have included, after all most people who talk a lot are just trying to be sociable, but it can be an immensely difficult trait for colleagues to deal with. Talking about your personal life is fine to do in the office, within reason, but if you’re constantly regaling your colleagues with your love life, home life, or office gossip you may be on thin ice.

Office Snitch

No one likes a snitch. But no one likes a compulsive rule breaker either. Whether you’re a rule follower or leading the crowd at ducking out early on a Friday afternoon, you won’t gain any brownie points with coworkers for being the one to go running to the boss. That said, if not speaking up to a superior about a coworker’s (major) indiscretion could put you, or the company/project, in jeopardy, by all means, do what you have to (I recommend doing so as discretely and anonymously as possible).

Being Consistently Late

Few things will annoy employers and colleagues as much as someone who is consistently late. There will be times when you can’t help being late due to public transport problems, family issues or even just sleeping through your alarm (everyone makes mistakes). But most offices will have at least one person who thinks it’s all right to regularly swan into the office half an hour after everyone else without so much as an apology. That wouldn’t even be so bad if they stayed late to make up for it, but the people who are late are also often the first out of the door come 5 o’clock.

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Rudeness Towards Colleagues

There is no excuse for rudeness in the workplace, and it will always come back to haunt you. You won’t get on with everybody and you’ll certainly bump into colleagues who annoy you with their habits or incompetence. But you should always try to remain in control. Do your best to never let your anger boil over into rudeness towards the people you spend most of your week with because it will create tension in the workplace, which is hardly conducive to effectiveness.

Not Being Able to Do Your Job

This one may seem obvious, but it’s important. There’s a difference between adapting to a new, more senior role, and biting off more than you could chew during your job interview. It will put undue pressure on your colleagues if you are constantly asking them questions that you should know the answer to, or being unable to juggle your various duties. To a degree this is understandable, but make sure you don’t oversell yourself and your experience during an interview (either for an internal promotion or a completely new job) because it won’t be long before you’re found out.

Not Dressing Appropriately

Taking pride in your appearance at work displays your respect for the job, your company, and your coworkers. By all means, if you are a Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, continue wearing hoodies and casual shoes. But if you’re not, and I’m assuming you’re not (if you are, I would love to know how you came to be reading this article), don’t come to work dressed like a slob or not having showered in a week. The office doesn’t need to be a runway either. Revealing or provocative fashion choices will not help you to be taken seriously. Always be aware of the dress policy and take cues from others, especially those senior to you.

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Being on Your Phone

In the age of modern technology, pretty much everyone will have their phone or tablet on them while in the office. Depending on your company policy, the occasional text or a discreet (and short) phone call is usually acceptable, but don’t be the person who thinks their working day is merely an extension of their free time. Spending more time on the phone to friends than clients is extremely unprofessional and will eventually catch up with you.

Exaggerating

There’s a fine line between exaggerating and blatantly lying. Do yourself a favor and stay away from both. Be confident in your abilities but don’t let that spill over into arrogance. I once had a coworker who took credit for the team’s work, and talking incessantly about his extensive network of connections. Don’t be that guy. You’ll regret it, as he did on the day he tried to introduce us to his “good friend the CEO,” who subsequently asked what his name was.

When you’re working in an office, you’ve likely reached an age where you are comfortable with yourself and no longer need acceptance from peers to feed your self-esteem. That, along with a drive for success, can lead you to forget that some traits are just annoying. Take a self-check of your workplace behaviors and do your best to ween them out of yourself as well your guilty colleagues. Making sure you aren’t guilty of any of these annoying traits could save your career.

Are there any habits not included here that annoy you? Do you have any funny anecdotes to share? Drop them in the comments so we can all benefit!

Featured photo credit: Ben Husmann via flickr.com

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Last Updated on December 5, 2018

How to Lead a Team More Effectively and Be a True Leader at Work

How to Lead a Team More Effectively and Be a True Leader at Work

Being an efficient manager and a charismatic boss at the same time can seem like an impossible task. Is there a way to deliver the desired results for your business while remaining liked and respected by your staff?

We all know bad examples of team leaders who seem to fail at one aspect or the other, or even at both. But we’ve also heard of awesome managers who seem to juggle both things well enough.

How do they do it?

By sticking to few proven ways that let them maintain a positive karma score while remaining efficient. In this article, we’ll guide you through 11 smart management tips on how to lead a team and become something more than a boss – a leader.

1. Find a Management Strategy and Stick to It

There’s nothing worse than a boss that keeps changing his or her opinions and assignments depending on their mood or a book they read this week. Chaotic decisions increase the insecurity and frustration of your team, so you better find your strategy and stick to it.

If you do find some new methods you want your staff to follow, make sure they don’t contradict the general direction you are taking. Otherwise, you risk making your team take one step forward and two steps back.

2. Set Goals​ and Track Progress in Reaching Them

Set individual and collective goals​ for your team and track the progress in reaching them. This might sound obvious at first, but too often we find ourselves stuck between daily customer requests and monthly reports, and the bigger goal or vision seems to fade away.

According to Elon Musk (and many other successful CEOs around the Globe), it’s crucial to have a clear and motivating aim to where the company is heading. His aim for the space transportation company SpaceX is “to make humankind a multi-planetary species”.[1] That’s a huge goal but the company is slowly moving closer to it by reaching smaller steps and milestones, like launching self-landing rockets. This is also a very inspiring and meaningful goal that helps employees endure the company’s extremely high expectations and 60 to 70-hour work weeks.[2]

Even if your goals are not as grand, setting and reaching milestones will give you a clear insight into the team’s overall efficiency and daily progress. With time, you will be able to see the weak spots and improve your results.​

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3. Demand Learning from Your Team

CEO of print on demand startup Printful, Davis Siksnans, believes that:[3]

“The key for a company going through rapid growth is to empower your employees’ self-development.”

His company with 500 employees spanning two continents demands a culture of learning and provides all the tools necessary to do it.

Their idea is –  as the company scales, people have to grow in their positions too, which means that they have to be constantly learning. Siksnans says:

“We try to hire people for what they might become, but they need to have that drive.“

Alternatively, you can provide educational courses for your employees or invite informal lecturers to educate and inspire your team. You can also encourage peer-to-peer learning by asking employees to teach their particular experience or skill to co-workers.

4. Invest in a Pleasant Work Environment

Studies show that a well-designed office environment can increase your team’s overall performance by as much as 20%. You’ll be surprised to see that even very small interior tweaks that don’t require major investments can improve your workers’ performance.

Some ideas for a more productive and pleasing work environment:

  • Invest in modern furniture – offer ergonomic chairs, standing desks, and individually arranged workplaces​.
  • Start an in-house library – reading for pleasure just 30 minutes a day is proven to be enough to become more effective at work,[4] improve focus, and deal with problems like depression and anxiety.​
  • Play jazzy office music – rhythmic background music will help workers feel more energetic and enthusiastic while doing everyday tasks.​
  • Set up entertainment or break rooms – being able to relax and have fun at work creates a strong commitment, helps employees relax and clear their minds, and boosts productivity.​
  • Bring in uplifting office decor – it’s been found that art in the workplace can boost productivity,[5] lower stress, and even encourage employees to innovate.​
  • Decorate the office with live plants for freshness and a welcoming feel. Furthermore, plants are found to ensure better air quality and increase workers’ productivity by 15%.[6]

5. Be Kind and Sincere to Your Team

Did you know that 50% of employees quit because they dislike working with their manager?[7] In fact, most times when people leave their jobs they actually leave their managers. Being friendly and sincere may not be enough to be a successful manager, but it’s a big part of it.

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Some ways to show you appreciate and care for your staff:

  • Celebrate the progress and achievements of your employees. And don’t be shy to simply say thanks.​
  • Talk to your employees regularly and really listen to what they have to say. Address their concerns, help them reach their goals and do your best to improve their work and daily life.
  • If you’re having a bad day, don’t pour out your stress and anger on the staff. Instead, try to recharge yourself by appreciating the achievements of your team and setting the next goals.
  • Try not to overload your team with work. Every company has rush periods when it’s okay to have more work than usual. But remember that people cannot work under prolonged pressure and stress.
  • Don’t be selfish – it can be very demotivating to see that the manager only focuses on what you can do for him and doesn’t care about your goals and well-being.​ As the CEO of Xerox Anne M. Mulcahy put it,[8]

    “Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person — not just an employee — are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled.”

Whenever you are having doubts about your kind attitude, remember – satisfied employees are productive employees which lead to satisfied customers and eventually – success for your company.

6. Offer Flexible Work Hours

The traditional Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 job is beginning to slip away. Increasingly more people are working remotely or having flexible work hours, and we can expect this trend to continue. To adapt to these changing habits and remain competitive in the labor market, more employers are offering the chance to choose your own work hours, work from home or even from another city or country.

Offering flexible hours is a powerful way to inspire your existing staff and give them intrinsic motivation. Why not let your employees choose their preferred working hours while keeping the 8-hour day? For example, night owls are unhappy and unproductive if they have to come to work before 10 AM, while others might prefer to start at 7 and finish earlier.

You can go even farther and hire remote workers – this way you’ll be able to recruit from a global talent pool and even save money on office expenses like desks, stationery, electricity, etc.[9]

7. Track Your Team’s Productive Time

Not monitoring your employees’ progress and efficiency can result in poor performance and slacking. Instead of letting things go with the flow, you should consider installing time-tracking software on your employees’ computers and see who’s doing great and who might need a productivity boost.

But don’t get it wrong – there’s no need to become big brother and watch every step your employees take. If you use the time-tracker as a spying tool, you will only see increasing suspicion and insecurity around you, and your employees’ happiness levels will drop.

On the contrary, choose software that allows employees to mark private time that won’t be tracked. In addition, consider these time-management tactics:

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  • Allow flexible work hours. (see Tip No 6)
  • Encourage breaks – studies show that employees who take regular breaks are more productive than those who don’t.[10]
  • Enable remote work to show your employees that you trust them and that they can work from home or even from another country (if they can maintain sufficient productivity).
  • Consider offering bonuses to your most productive employees (those who show productivity levels above 90 or 95%).

8. Use Only Constructive Criticism

Constructive criticism means offering valid and rational opinions about the work of others, involving both positive comments and remarks about what should be improved. Constructive criticism is usually expressed in a friendly manner rather than an oppositional one.

When you evaluate your team’s work, give them feedback that’s helpful, specific, and sincere. Don’t be shy to praise, but also be direct and even strict when necessary.

9. Don’t Give Special Treatment to Yourself

The boss’s actions are – directly or indirectly – observed by your team. This means that your employees look up to you and often mimic your attitude towards your work and the company – especially if your actions don’t show commitment. Nobody wants to work for a leader who doesn’t go all in or inspire motivation.

What you should do is lead by example. If you expect your employees to arrive at work on time and work 8 hours, do the same yourself. If you want them to show initiative, show it yourself and encourage others to do the same.

Jeff Weiner is the CEO of LinkedIn – a company of 3,000 employees that consistently ranks as one of the best workplaces with a 92 percent employee-approval rating.[11] Weiner’s workdays are reported to be equally long or even longer than those of his employees, allowing him to stay “extremely credible as a leader.”

10. Empower Your Employees

Here’s a common mistake many managers make:

They don’t motivate their staff and assume they simply love to work for their company.​ Such belief can result in painful losses for the company – especially these days when many companies are in desperate need of a reliable workforce.

Instead of directly thinking about bonuses and perks, consider intrinsic motivation. For example, enable flat organization in your team and listen to your employees’ ideas when they come up with opinions and suggestions. Your company might actually benefit a great deal from the feedback, and the unique ideas employees come up with.

You can also start an initiative where employees can freely share or pitch their business ideas to you or the founders of the company. If the idea is accepted by the management, the project can be developed, and the employee can have equity options.

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If people feel they have an impact in the company, they become more motivated, engaged and interested in the company’s growth.

11. Nurture Your Company Culture

Company culture is the personality of a company that defines the overall work environment and relationships between teammates. It also includes company mission, values, ethics, and goals.

Some examples of company cultures are the Horizontal corporate culture (collaborative and equal; popular among startups and free-spirited businesses) and Conventional corporate culture (a more risk-averse and hierarchy-based approach common in traditional companies).

However, you don’t have to stick to pre-existing boxes when creating your corporate culture. You might think of your team as a family, a sports team, or even a hippie camp if it fits your business and purpose. But keep in mind that by the time a company’s size reaches 20 employees, the company culture is set,[12] and any changes will need to be implemented in smaller teams.

Whichever personality you choose for your company, make sure to live by it and nurture it. Some things that might help:

Team building events, relevant books in your office library and proper on-boarding for the new employees to get everyone on the same page from the very beginning.

Be a Leader, Not a Boss

Using the words of Printful’s CEO Davis Siksnans, the ultimate goal is to “Hire great people who don’t have to be managed.”

However, when you do need to demonstrate some initiative and control, act as a leader rather than as a boss.

In other words, don’t be afraid to show the personality behind your role. And keep these 11 tips close to your heart.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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