We are all guilty of making mistakes in the office, and much of the time, we try not to talk about them. Ever wonder what everyone else is doing wrong, too?
Here are eight of the biggest examples — how many are you guilty of?
1. Taking Small Items for Yourself
A paper clip here. A staple or two there. Making photocopies of your lost cat poster. From time to time, the office has just what you need, and the office manager knows all too well that people take tiny things for something that is not for business use. And usually, they take the attitude of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
On occasion, people have been fired for petty theft, which is why no one openly talks about liberating a few small items when they really need them. But as long as it doesn’t involve things more significant than a paperclip, pen, or Post-it, it’s one of those things that is never talked about. As one of my former HR managers said to me, “If you’re salaried, and putting in extra hours here and there, it all comes out in the wash anyway. No one cares about a few paper clips and Post-its if you’re a hard-working employee.”
Nonetheless, it’s never okay to steal — not even a paperclip — and doing so can get you fired. Be forewarned.
2. Jamming the Copier and Walking Away
It’s embarrassing to jam up the photocopier. It’s even more embarrassing to walk away and later admit you were the one who held up the office for an hour, while the repair person worked on the mess you left behind. It’s a mistake to leave the copier tied up, especially if you created the issue, but it’s not something anyone talks about. Go on, ask anyone in the office right now: “Have you ever walked away from a paper jam you created?” You’ll get a big shaking of the head, every time. But we know. We all know.
3. Not Making a Fresh Pot of Coffee
Whether we genuinely forget, we’re “too busy,” or we’re in a mad rush, we have all made the mistake of drinking the last of the coffee and not making any more. Oh, the shame, as we slink out of the room hoping no one will notice. If anyone asks, we deny it completely. “I always make a fresh pot — some people are just so inconsiderate,” as we cross our fingers behind our back and hope no one sees through the façade. Even Terry Tate: Office Linebacker has something to say about it — “You kill the Joe, you make some mo’.” Well, not always. It’s our secret though.
4. Coming Into Work Sick
I asked someone once, “Why are you here — you aren’t well enough to be at work?” And their answer, rattled through a throaty cough, was “I’m saving my sick days for personal time; no one uses sick days when they’re actually sick!”
Oh, how true that is. Although people would never admit it to the boss, and certainly not the HR manager, coming into work sick so you can use sick days as personal days is something people do all the time. Perhaps you take those days as “mental health recharging opportunities,” because was we all know… you either use them, or lose them.
5. Taking Your Phone to the Bathroom
Ask anyone if they take their phone to the bathroom at work, you’ll get a horrified “No way!” response. Yeah, right. If you’re going to be sitting and doing nothing for five to 10 minutes, your phone is a personal entertainment device perfect for the job! You can use it to play games, check email, watch movies, and if you plug in headphones, no one will ever be the wiser. And if you’re thinking, “Maybe I am the only one who does it,” consider that 61% of people polled said they’ve done it. You’re definitely not alone.
6. Browsing the Internet
Chances are, you could very well be doing this one right now. At the office, we have access to a computer, which in turns gives us the Internet, and a massive banquet of online content. You do it. Your boss does it. The boss’s boss does it. But no one ever really admits it. However, it has a lot of people worried. One quick Google of the term “browsing Internet at work” brings back 71 million results. Topics like “How Do You Discretely Browse the Internet at Work?” and “How to Slack Off at Work (And Not Get Caught)” are everywhere. And yet… we never really acknowledge it.
7. Taking Credit for Someone Else’s Work
This is a tricky one. It’s definitely a huge mistake to do this on a recurring basis; it’s quite an underhanded thing to do. But sometimes, it just happens. You can be in a meeting with your boss and he or she gives you props for a project someone else was largely responsible for. What do you do? Confess, and look like an honest but unproductive employee? Gladly take full ownership, and gloat? Or, say nothing and hope it blows over? Most of us choose the latter. Yes, it’s a mistake; hopefully, a very rare one. But sometimes, the easiest way out is not to talk about it.
Sure, we talk about office romances, rumors, of layoffs, and that weird guy in the mail room who smells like stale cheese. But we never actually admit to gossiping, because it’s not something we should really be doing. However, anyone who denies a little water cooler gossip is lying, and even human resources professionals understand this. So, as long as you’re not discussing something that could be toxic, or is blatantly untrue, you’re making a mistake that everyone else makes.
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