Professional Development Work Relationships

The 7 Deadly Workplace Mistakes

Written by Kate Lopaze

Workplace mistakes: they happen. More importantly, they happen to everyone, from the CEO down to the most junior employee. It’s just a fact of professional life. However, some workplace mistakes are worse than others. Here are seven of them that are likely within your control, and that you should avoid at all costs.

1. Lying

Whether it’s a little white lie about whether or not you responded to an email or a big honking falsehood you tell to cover up a mistake, just don’t do it. Your honesty is a huge part of your workplace reputation. If you’re caught in that lie (or worse, more than one), you’ve given your bosses and colleagues a reason not to believe anything you say.

2. Throwing others under the bus

The workplace can be a very competitive atmosphere, especially depending on your industry. When things go wrong, it can be tempting to shift the blame to one of your coworkers, so that they get the consequences from a mistake. But really, it’s just poor form, and trust me—you’re not pulling it off as subtly as you might think. It might get you out of the hot seat for now, but your boss (and possibly your colleagues) will know that you’re not someone who will take deserved blame along with credit.

Just about every professional evaluation survey I’ve ever seen has a question about whether the employee owns up to mistakes and handles them productively. Like dishonesty, deflective blame is something that can really damage your reputation. So when things go wrong, own up to your piece in it, and figure out how you can either help fix it, or prevent it in the future.

3. Tooting your own horn

Think of it as sportsmanship in the workplace. Nobody likes a bad winner, who rubs their success in everyone’s faces—especially if it comes at the expense of other team members. Feel free to do a mini-victory dance in the privacy of your own desk, but don’t send out a company-wide email announcing your good fortune.

4. Taking credit for things you didn’t do

If you weren’t the one who stayed up all night on this project, don’t be the one who steps up to accept the laurels when credit and applause come from above. If the idea you floated in the meeting wasn’t exactly your own creation, make sure the person who did come up with it gets the credit. Don’t be like one of those comedians who get busted stealing others’ jokes…it’ll just undermine your support when you do have an awesome idea. No one wants to be known as the Milli Vanilli of their office.

5. Throwing a tantrum

If things aren’t going your way, don’t let it cause a scene at work. Sometimes you’ll feel like screaming. Sometimes you’ll feel like having it out with a colleague who’s treating you like crap. Always, always find a way to cool off before you handle an emotionally charged situation. You can’t take back things said in anger, and you really don’t want to get a reputation around your office as someone with an unstable temper.

6. Talking about how much you hate your job/company/boss

Occasionally muttering, “I hate this place” under your breath at your monitor = fine. Announcing it in a meeting or in front of colleagues = not okay. Letting everyone know how unhappy you are is only going to provoke one response: “Then why are you still here?” It will also tell your boss and your company that you don’t care anymore, which can work against you when it comes to raises, promotions, etc. If you’re truly unhappy at your job, there are ways to manage that stress—not least of which is looking for a new job. You can do that without announcing your discontent, and avoid any awkwardness that might result.

7. Talking about colleagues behind their backs

Talking smack about someone is just never gonna end well. I promise this is just as true in the adult workplace as it ever was in high school. Best case, you may be spreading information that might not be true, or might be damaging to someone else or the company. Worst case, it gets back to the subject of the gossip, and you’ve damaged your reputation and at least one working relationship.

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.