Getting ahead at work requires more than doing the job you’re paid to do well. That’s because many employers view your work as more than your specific job tasks. In fact, once you’re hired, you’re on the clock 24/7, even if you actually only report to the office from 9 to 5 Monday through Friday.
What do I mean by that? you ask.
Well, to get ahead—or even simply just to keep your job — you must behave well at your worksite, in public when you’re off the clock, and at home. These days, everyone can record your actions with their phone; and if you suddenly find yourself in a YouTube video yelling at a clerk at the store (even if the clerk was in the wrong), you may find yourself without your job.
In short, you may perform your job better than anyone else, but if you act poorly, you can lose your job, be put on the demotion track, or be outright demoted.
Periodically, it’s a good thing to review your workplace’s policy or guidelines on what constitutes proper workplace behavior. There are also some things common sense should tell you it’s wrong to do. However, enough people have been let go or demoted for acting against common sense (and the guidelines in their company’s handbook). So with that said, let’s review a few behaviors you should avoid at all costs:
- Sexual harassment. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, more people are beginning to understand that it is improper to make sexual overtures to colleagues, whether they are a subordinate or at the same professional level. To be safe, pursue romantic relationships with people outside of work—but even then, don’t continue your pursuit if the other party is not interested.
- Yelling at work or in public. It is never appropriate to yell at work, whether at a higher-up, a subordinate, or a coworker. Always keep your cool. Same goes for when you’re in public. Get caught on camera in a tirade, and you’ll find yourself in the boss’s office being told you’ve brought bad press to the company . . . and that they have to demote you or let you go.
- Posting sexually explicit, harassing, threatening, or racist messages on social media. With the number of people publicly let go over such posts, you’d think people would stop making them. Yet every year, we hear of more people who are fired because of something vile they posted on social media. If you feel the desire to post such content, get it under control. Don’t do it. Instead, make an appointment to see a mental health professional. You need help.
- Ignoring colleagues. From the janitor to the CEO, every employee should greet other employees whether at work or in public. It can be a simple “Good morning/afternoon/night” or “Hello.” This type of behavior spreads goodwill throughout an organization. It can also impress superiors. On the flip side, if you ignore colleagues, you could get a reputation for being stuck-up. That impresses no one and is not an attribute that will make you a contender for promotions.
- Not being a team player. You may prefer working alone, may not care for birthday celebrations, and can’t stand sports. But if your workplace celebrates team players, birthdays, and is filled with sports fans, don’t be the party pooper. It’s OK to be different, but don’t whine and make an issue of it. This is all part of being a team player.
- Talking behind your boss’s back. You may not agree with your boss and may even dislike her or him, but keep all that to yourself. Sharing with other coworkers your bad thoughts about the boss will get you NOWHERE. If word about this got back to your superior, you could be put on the demotion list and not even know it. Gripe to your spouse, significant other, or best friend (provided they’re not a colleague). Or better yet, keep your thoughts to yourself, do your best job, and get promoted and work for someone else.
There is so much more I could say on this topic, but for today I have to leave it here. Just remember, you’re on the clock whether you’re at work or not. That’s all part of careering.