Mind the minefield of office mistakes

Mind the minefield of office mistakes


Each working environment comes with its own corporate culture and its own set of rules. Knowing the basics will set you on your path to success. As in any social situation, there are rules around office behaviour – some of them obvious, and some less so.

Every business has its own culture and unwritten rules, which undoubtedly you’ll get to know as you become more familiar with the working environment. But there are some general do’s and don’ts that every graduate about to make the transition to the working world should know.

DON’T GOSSIP It’s also a mistake to gossip about co-workers or complain about your managers or workload. In a new environment, it’s hard to know who to trust and who will keep your secrets, so be friendly and professional, but keep your personal opinions on your co-workers out of the office.

BE HONEST Always be honest about your qualifications and capabilities. Unfortunately, being dishonest on your CV or about your experience is a mistake that will very quickly be revealed – and, what’s worse, it will be hard to rectify.

On that note, don’t take on more than you can handle. While you’re trying to impress, taking on too much sets the scene for disaster and you’re likely to drop the ball somewhere along the line. Learning to say no is an important skill, as is understanding that it is better not to take on a task than to take on too much and deliver too little.

OWN UP TO MISTAKES People value honesty – which means that you should always own up to making a mistake. No matter how disastrous your mistake may seem, in the long run it is better to admit to it and go to someone more senior to help you out of the situation.

You could even use this as an opportunity to make a good impression: while owning up to the mistake, you can come up with a solution for the problem you’ve created. Almost every organisation believes that mistakes are opportunities to learn. Covering up a mistake can lead to one minor error becoming something far more serious. So admit your mistake, find a solution, learn the lesson, apologise and move on.

KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR OPPORTUNITIES Of course, it’s not easy to find the right balance, especially when it’s also important to explore all the opportunities that come your way. This is especially true when it comes to taking advantage of the extra training, mentorship and coaching that your organisation may offer. It’s a mistake to believe that you know everything there is to know about working in your field.

Disciplines change, technology evolves and there are always new and better ways to do the same thing, so never be so arrogant as to think there is nothing more you have to learn. At the end of the day, if you’re not learning, you’re not growing.

DON’T REACT EMOTIVELY Dealing with co-workers or clients can be extremely rewarding and one of the best parts of your career. However, there will always be people who challenge you, frustrate you, treat you unfairly or simply make you angry. Perhaps one of the most important mistakes to avoid at work is to become too emotional, or to respond to someone when you are angry or upset.

The best advice we can give you is to step away from your desk, take some time alone to calm down, and only respond once you’re feeling more rational and less emotional. All too often it is the emotional decisions we regret the most. Never, ever send an e-mail or mobile message in anger, and avoid social media until you’ve had time to carefully consider the implications of anything you post.


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