No one likes to admit that they don't know something. Fess up: how many times have you stood there nodding your head when the boss said, "Oh, of course, you know about the Schlanger Survey..." -- but you really had no clue what she was talking about? Now I'm a big fan of the fake-it-till-you-make-it school of career advancement, but there are some things you really gotta know, because there just aren't any excuses for not knowing them.
Unfortunately, unless you've had a "been there, done that" career mentor, most of us discover the unwritten rules by first posing as the village idiot in front of our colleagues.
Here is a quick roundup of some of the most spectacularly stupid maneuvers I've pulled or that we've seen others perpetrate -- when we ALL really should have known better.
Waaay Too Damn Much Information
Terry was late for a meeting. Her excuse? Yeast Infection. OK. Her boss, Linda, was sympathetic and let it go. Two weeks later, Terry comes in very late for work and tells Linda it was because of her period. Buh-Bye Terry.
DUH: nobody but your doctor and yer mamma wants to hear about your bodily functions or malfunctions.
DON'T ever use the words: cramp, diarrhea, bowel(s), hemorrhoid(s), vaginal, yeast, incontinence, bloated, gas, discharge, bladder, constipation or (anal) warts. While we're at it skip: phlegm, mucus (ey), vomit, saliva, snot and booger. Caveat: if you work in the medical field, feel free to use all of the above except "booger."
Gail had a fight with her boss, and immediately ran to her office to fire off an IM to her friend about what a jerk her boss is. In her irate haste, however, Gail picked the wrong "Buddy" -- and accidentally IM'ed the jerk message to her boss, who thereafter referred to her as his ass-istant.
DUH: you can't take back an IM once you hit send.
DON'T hit send until you double-check the recipient, and don't leave IM messages open on your screen for all the world to read when you walk away from your computer. Log out, lady.
Reading is Fun-duh-mental
Maris had an epic email volley over the course of several days between three members of the executive team in which she wrote terrifically snotty comments about a coworker, Daphne. Eventually, the email morphed into a question that only Daphne could answer. Rather than sending a new email to Daphne -- cutting and pasting in the last few relevant emails -- Maris, forgetting the original nature of the email, forwarded the whole chain to Daphne -- who read it all the way down to the bottom. An UGLY fight ensued.
DUH: people know how to read.
DON'T just use an old email to send a note to someone, particularly if you will be cc'ing other people. Either read the email all the way to the bottom to make sure it's OK for public consumption, or create a new email.
The Intercom Before the Storm
Deb and Marie had a huge fight. Deb runs in her office, slams the door, picks up the phone to call her friend and starts the conversation with "You won't believe what that stupid bitch Marie just had the nerve to..." Unfortunately, Deb had inadvertently hit the office-wide intercom button, and her conversation was being broadcast through every other phone (Deb couldn't hear it, because she was on her phone). Before anyone could save Deb from herself, it was too late, the damage was done. Deb and Marie never spoke again.
DUH: know what all those buttons on your phone do.
DON'T slam any coworker while IN your office. You just never know.
My First Computer
Bridget was responsible for managing copy for an online catalogue. She was reprimanded regularly for posting unedited copy on the site and missing deadlines. Eventually, Bridget was canned, and her boss discovered thousands of randomly-named Word docs on her computer, all filed only under My Documents -- with absolutely no subfolders or other trace of an attempt at an organizational system.
DUH: you can and will get fired for incompetence.
DON'T skimp on taking the time to set up systems for managing the information of your job -- gross inefficiency is hard to hide for long.
Your Cheatin' Art
Claire interviewed for a new position within her company, but never thought to mention to her boss that she was even thinking of changing jobs. The boss found out about Claire's interview through a third party, and assumed that it was a blatant act of betrayal. He looked like an idiot for not knowing that a member of his staff had applied for another within the company. He put the kibosh on the new position and demoted her.
DUH: If you are interviewing for a job internally, your boss will find out about it.
DON'T forget to request your boss's blessing. The most valuable reference you will ever get will be from people who have directly managed you.
Trixie claimed $20 on her expense report for a lunch with coworker Alice. The nice guy from accounting asks Alice, "Hey, when did you have lunch with Trixie?" Alice replies: "Um, never."
DUH: expense reports are subject to scrutiny.
DON'T misrepresent or otherwise fudge expense reports; it's called theft.
I Owe Black and Blue
Wilma borrowed $400 from Betty, a friend/coworker. Wilma paid Betty back in cash. A few weeks later, Betty demanded that the debt be settled. Wilma said, "I DID pay you." Betty said, "No. You DI' INT!" Wilma had no signed agreement, no canceled check, no receipt, no proof. The disagreement ended in court and Wilma had to pay Betty $400 -- again.
DUH: people can be psycho when it comes to money.
DON'T borrow more than $10 bucks from anyone at work.
Loose Lips Get Ripped
Gloria got an amazing performance evaluation -- all "1s." Pleased with herself, Gloria ran out and told her friend/coworker Edith all about her many "1s." Edith then received HER review -- all "3s". Edith complained to HR which told her: "No one in the company received any :`1s'" "Oh yeah?," said Edith, who then repeats what Gloria had said. One year later, Gloria gets a "4" (out of 5) in the "trustworthy "category on her annual review.
DUH: salary and performance info are confidential.
DON'T spill the specifics (good or bad) about your private dealings with the company; there is NOTHING to be gained by doing so.
Forgotten, But Not Gone
Michelle left the original copy of her prenup agreement on the Xerox machine in her office. Later, she found out that word had spread about how her fiancé INSISTED on having the agreement before he would say "I do."
DUH: most people are dying to know -- and talk about -- everyone else's secrets.
DON'T use office equipment for personal business; it can only lead to trouble. Kinkos, anyone?
Blanche was trying to impress some of her male officemates by telling Playboy-worthy stories about her wild weekend of nonstop sex. Two days later, every single man in the office either gawked at her or whispered: "Can you really do THAT?".
DUH: guys would KILL to hear your sexcapades so they can fantasize about you during boring budget meetings.
DON'T tell anyone a personal story too good not to repeat.
Chew Damn Much
Roseanne liked to eat. Problem was, her job was in telephone sales. All day long, Roseanne was munchin' Fritos while she was on the phone with clients. In between snacks, she crunched on the ice cubes in her Diet Coke. She was chewed out and let go.
DUH: no one ever wants to hear chewing
DON'T eat all day long -- it's nasty.
On the morning of the funeral of my friend's family member, a coworker called my friend at home to ask an inane question about a minor work issue. He knew that there was a tragedy in the family, yet didn't ask how she was or express ANY sympathy whatsoever.
DUH: when someone is dealing with a death in their family, they don't care about what's going on in the office.
DON'T avoid expressions of sympathy. Say you are sorry, send the note. P.S.: don't try to be too original. My friend's 76-year-old dad got a try-too-hard card after his wife died that read: "Don't worry Bill, you'll be with her soon enough." And don't call the day of a family funeral!
Fun DUH Raiser
I had a colleague with five children. The only time I ever saw her was when she was waving the latest school fundraiser sign-up sheet for Girl Scout cookies, walk-a-thons and all those raffle tickets for stuff we didn't even want to win...
DUH: people hate solicitors.
DON'T assault your colleagues more than once a year for fundraising activities.
Rolling The Sick Day Dice
Janet planned a trip to Reno, but had no vacation time left. She decided to call in sick so she could tack on an extra day to a long weekend. Problem was, Jan told all her office buddies she was going to Reno for four days. So when her supervisor asked, "Where's Janet?" because he hadn't yet picked up the "cough-cough, can't-come-in-I'm-sick" voicemail from Janet, her coworkers said, "Oh, she's in Reno."
DUH: sick people stay home in bed.
DON'T tell your coworkers your actual plans if you are "planning' on calling in sick.
Melanie was invited to a senior exec's house for a dinner party, but called at the last moment with regrets because she was ill. Melanie was invited a second time, but declined because she "had too much work to do." The Uppity Upper took umbrage, and never invited Melanie again.
DUH: people have egos .
DON'T turn down invitations from Uppity Uppers who extend themselves to you.
Snoop Doggy Dogs
I have returned to my office to find coworkers rifling through whatever files were on my desk; occasionally, I've even caught people in my drawer, mumbling something about a band-aid.
DUH: people in offices are paranoid.
DON'T touch anything on anyone else's desk without permission -- and don't you be walking off with that stapler, either.
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