7 Workplace Blunders and How to Avoid Them

1. Taking things too personally - A thick skin is the ultimate office survival tool. Taking the daily gruffness of an office atmosphere personally is, frankly, a waste of time. Perhaps your boss is being terse with you because she can't kick her nicotine addiction. Maybe she is fighting with her boyfriend or husband. Or, quite possible, she's just having one of those days. Whatever the reason, taking workplace hostility personally is an unnecessary distraction that will surely stymie your climb up the ladder.


2. Not asking enough questions - Judy Woodruff, a senior correspondent for NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, put it like this: "College didn't teach me how to be a reporter, so I asked a ton of questions and learned that way." In addition, ambiguity is often the source of many office issues. Therefore, ask questions, clarify expectations, and don't be afraid to clarify your clarified expectations. Your boss would rather answer a question than correct a mistake.


3. Shrinking back instead of speaking up - The truism goes: "No one is going to speak up for you." Whether it's advocating for a cushier assignment, a better evaluation on your project, or letting your boss know about the accolades you received on that client presentation - you must speak up. So, go on, and forward that glowing e-mail you got from your client straight to your boss.


4. Trying to be perfect - Career experts concur. Being a perfectionist is not the quality that will get you ahead at work. It extinguishes any inclination toward risk-taking and overshadows the real priorities of your job, which probably don't consist of spell-checking that document for the eighteenth time.


5. Accepting an employer's first offer - The statistics speak for themselves. By not negotiating on even your first job offer you stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of your career for what shouldn't amount to more than a few seconds outside of your comfort zone. Also, don't think you are coming across as collegial by accepting their first offer. Employers expect you to negotiate. And by handling the negotiations with firmness and poise, you'll probably end up reinforcing your organization's decision to hire you.


6. Taking on all the administrative tasks - Are you the one answering the phones? Doing all the filing? Grabbing lunch for everyone? If you are, you've fallen into the common trap of being assistant-tized. Now it's time to make a concerted effort to take on some bigger-picture projects and assignments.


7. Managing up and not laterally - While it's critical to spend time "managing up" - a fancy way of saying "impressing your boss" - don't forget about the people at your level. These are the people that will put in a good word for you when you're looking for a new job, provide that necessary daily workplace alliance, and act as that crucial sounding board.


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