Avoiding Workplace Behavior Problems
Growing up, we all learn how to tailor our behavior to the situation. We talk and act one way with our friends and another with our family. While respect and affability should be consistent throughout, we're more casual in some circumstances and more formal in others. This carries over to the workplace. How we act with friends is different than how we act in business situations. But the longer we work with the same people, the more they feel like friends and a second family, and the tendency can be for these lines to become blurred. If not kept in check, this can lead to behavior and actions that are inappropriate for work, potentially putting your job at risk.
Inappropriate Jokes or Stories
Sharing an off-color joke, political gag, or the details of a recent date may be appropriate for friends or even a very close co-worker, but they have no place in the workplace. We each have our individual judgment and set of guidelines, so the rule is: Don't do it. You could make people feel uncomfortable or even unsafe at work, and either one could jeopardize your job.
Being Overly Negative
We all have bad days, problems we bring from home, and sometimes just wake up on the wrong side of the bed. It's a part of being human. But chronic negativity and displaying a poor attitude affects your job performance, your co-workers, and can cause your manager to question whether you're a positive influence in the company.
Misuse of Company Technology
Whether it's your desktop at work or a company-issued laptop or phone you use while not at work, learn your company's technology policy so you know what usage is permissible. Even if you are within the stated guidelines, keep in mind that excessive personal use may create a problem.
Many people look forward to Girl Scout cookies and school fundraiser time - and yes, they're good causes - but make sure you check your company's solicitation policy. Even if it is okay, check with your manager and don't overdo it. Like eating Samoas, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
It's easy to say don't do it, but it's not always that simple. When you spend a lot of time at work and get close to people, Mr. or Ms. Right can show up. If this happens, it's important to inform both your manager and human resources as soon as the relationship becomes established. Most companies have guidelines for dealing with office romances. Not complying with them is asking for heartache.
Having a drink at a company dinner, holiday party, or picnic is fine. After all, they're meant for relaxing and having social time with your coworkers. Keep in mind, however, that becoming drunk at any company function is always unacceptable.
Acting as Company Spokesperson
We all have an opinion and are free to express it, but remember that if you're identified as an employee of your company or in uniform you are considered to be a spokesperson, so unless you are in corporate communications or in a similar position, respectfully decline to comment. In many cases not doing so is grounds for termination. If you're approached by the media and asked about your company, unless you have express permission to speak on the company's behalf, refer them to someone in the organization whose responsibility this is.
If any of these behaviors sound familiar, the best course of action is to take stock and change that behavior. While many of these may feel playful or benign, they're not appropriate in a work setting. And even the slightest ones can be a problem if it becomes a common occurrence or has gone on for a long time. It's never too late to change!