Mistakes: They happen to the best of us. The next time you want to kick yourself for making a dumb mistake at work, remember everybody does it. And what really matters most is not whether you made a mistake, but how you deal with it and avoid letting it happen again.
Career experts and HR pros say they see employees make the same mistakes all the time. Here are five of the most common mistakes people make at work, and some tips for avoiding them.
- Assuming your work speaks for itself. “Hardworking, heads-down professionals are often surprised when they’re passed over for promotion or other opportunities,” says Darcy Eikenberg, a workplace coach and president of Coach Darcy, LLC. “In today’s workplace, it’s not just what you’re doing that matters; it’s how you’re doing it. Do people know who you are, and what’s special about you? Are you sharing the stories about the success you and your colleagues are having on your projects or assignments? Make sure you’re speaking on your own behalf, knowing who you need to know, and giving people the opportunity to learn more.”
- Spending too much time on email. “Many people assume that every email needs an answer, or that they’ll break some kind of rule if they ignore any email requests,” Eikenberg says. “No one is promoted because they’re good at email. Send and answer fewer emails, and spend that time instead walking down the hall or picking up the phone. Face-to-face and voice-to-voice connections remain the gold standard for creating trust — and trust is the foundation for success at work.”
- Believing that your employer is human. While your company is managed by humans, it is just that, a company, rather than a person, says Chris Perry, founder of Career Rocketeer, a career search and personal branding blog. “Your employer can let you go in many cases for almost any reason regardless of your financial situation or even how much time and effort you have invested in the company,” Perry says. “You should undoubtedly give your employer 100 percent and remain loyal to your organization in your decisions and actions, remember that your organization may not always be as loyal to or considerate of you in its decisions and actions. Make sure you put your own career first and don’t be afraid to pursue new opportunities within the organization or beyond that are in your best interest more than in that of your employer.”
- Sharing too much at work. We all spend a lot of time at work and hopefully have friends and acquaintances there, but it’s important to pay attention to what you share with those work friends. “This information can hurt you down the road if heard or interpreted by the wrong ears,” Perry says. “This includes information about your personal life, political views and your career plans. Not only can the information itself come back to haunt you, but others may perceive that you are too chatty and spend more time talking than working, which can inevitably hurt you as well.”
- Foregoing professionalism. When you got the job, chances are you were focused on projecting a professional image — but after getting comfortable, your standards may have slipped. Deborah Millhouse, president of staffing company CEO Inc., says the most common mistakes she sees employees make involve a lack of professionalism, such as wearing “inappropriate attire that is too tight or not clean.” Instead, “dress for the position that you want up the food chain,” she says. Other unprofessional behaviors Millhouse sees frequently include showing up late for meetings or appointments and poor proofing on important documents.