5 things to Avoid at Work

Expectations vary across workplaces, which can be confusing if you’re starting a new job. But wherever you work, there are still some basic principles you can apply. Below are five starting points for your list of ‘What not to do’.

1. Disrupting Others


Many employees have been affected by the disruptive actions of others. Some commonly identified disruptive behaviour include being too loud, having a negative attitude, distracting others from their work and arriving late to meetings.

If someone indicates that your actions are bothering them, don’t take it as a personal insult. Most people do not go out of their way to make others feel bad- they just want to be able to do their job.

Apologise, take the information on board and think about how you can avoid doing it in future.  Continuing one of more of these habits over a long period of time can lead to conflict, reduced productivity and eventually dismissal.

2. Being Messier than Everyone Else

Some people feel perfectly comfortable in cluttered environments. If you are one of these people, then this is probably reflected in parts of your home. If you happen to own you house and live on your own, you are perfectly free to create absolute chaos, leaving all your possessions wherever you want, whenever you want.

But workplace it is an entirely different story. Offices and other work environments are shared by large groups of people. Every workplace will be organised to a different standard of tidiness, but it is everyone’s responsibility to maintain this state. If you walk into an immaculate office, keep it that way.

A 2013 study published in Management Decision suggests that consciences people commit more errors in messy environments and that tidier workplaces increase overall accuracy.

So a little bit of effort effort putting things back in their place and clearing space makes it easier for everyone else.

On a similar note, you don’t want to be that person who always leaves spilt coffee or empty food wrappers on the bench. Consider everyone working around you and maintain a neat, hygienic space.

And not to mention, avoid being lazy in any way, avoid sleeping at work and try to stay active so people see you contributing at work in every bits and pieces. Having said that, small smoke/coffee breaks or occasional chats with your colleagues is acceptable at most work places.

3. Getting too Personal

It’s not uncommon for employees to socialise after work or have conversations in the lunch room.

Personal details about your family, health or sex life can make others uncomfortable and asking others about these kinds of information can be seen as nosy.

While it is good to learn things about others, it’s important to respect others’ privacy and recognise what kinds of conversations are not suitable.

Remember that some things are also considered controversial. Bringing up religion and politics can lead to heated debates.

If you have been socialising with a co-worker outside of work for long enough to consider them a friend, you become the judge of when, if ever, these topics become appropriate.

But always err on the side of caution and avoid continuing these personal discussions in the workplace.

4. Unprofessional Behaviour

With the increasing number of large businesses adopting a more ‘laid-back’ work atmosphere and the rise of social media, you may find yourself misjudging your employer’s expectations.  This will be different in each work-place but it is important to make sure you don’t cross the line.

A major part of this is following the workplace dress-code. Don’t assume it is okay to waltz into work wearing jeans and a pair of sneakers. Often, workplaces will require business shirts, ties and dress shoes.

‘Dress-Down-Friday’  is practiced in many workplaces around the world, offering employees a reprieve from the dress norm. ‘Dress-down’ days are not completely free-for-all.  In most cases, there will be clear guidelines about what is appropriate.

It’s also important to avoid communicating in an unprofessional manner. Generally, spelling errors and colourful fonts do not belong in your work emails. Steer clear of using slang, particularly when contacting new people.

Some other examples of unprofessional practices include starting rumours, gossiping, sending personal messages through your work email account and complaining about your job on Facebook.

These things can send the message that you don’t take your job seriously.

5. Being disrespectful

During meetings, refrain from texting your friends, talking over another or responding to co-workers with condescending remarks.

Know what terms are considered discriminatory and avoid making jokes or forwarding emails that are racist, sexist or homophobic. Remember- the fact that you are not offended by something does not mean it won’t offend others.

This includes bullying, humiliating or sexually harassing co-workers. Familiarise yourself with these policies and realise that your words have consequences.

Another way to show others respect is to return phone calls and emails as soon as possible.

Do not be caught zoning out when your boss or another staff member is trying to pass on important information. Give others your full attention.

Regardless of any personal opinions you might have about your colleagues, showing everyone general courtesy will give managers a good impression. It will also help minimise conflict, which allows you to work toward your goals in a more peaceful environment.