Don’t Be a Casualty Of These Career-Killers

Have you ever fallen victim to a career-killing move?

You know the feeling — realizing that what you’ve just said to a client may have been inappropriate, or the outfit you’re wearing might look better on the beach than in the boardroom? Or, perhaps you hit the “reply to all” button on your e-mail, instead of “reply” or showed up late for a staff meeting?

If you can relate, you know what it’s like to be thrust into the world of career-limiting moves — where professionals don’t understand or practice the proper rules of acceptable behavior on the job.

The business world can be a tricky place to navigate. How to dress, act and balance technical skills or professional expertise with appropriate personal behavior are some of the challenges we face. The rules are changing for some work-related topics, but some principles are timeless and can’t be ignored.

As employers face potential belt-tightening, an individual’s ability to act in a responsible, respectable and thoughtful way is likely to be an asset and a company’s competitive edge. Career-limiting moves may be more costly than ever. Three of the primary areas of interpersonal office dynamics include common courtesies, use of technology and personal responsibility.

Common Courtesies Count

Common courtesies may be simple things, but you’d be amazed by how often these basic behavior areas are forgotten or ignored.

Remember simple things like:

  • being on time,
  • saying “hello” and “goodbye,” as well as “please” and “thank you,” and
  • giving credit to others.

Technology Snafus

Have you ever heard of “power rudeness”? The term refers to poor technology-related manners concerning mainly the use of e-mail, cellphones and voice mail.

Here are five rules to remember for proper business e-mail use:

  • Watch your words. You may think that what you write is easy to understand, but sometimes words can be misconstrued. Be concise and to the point. This will eliminate the need for costly long-distance phone calls to follow up on e-mails that need further clarification.
  • Remember, few people like “spam.” When sending unsolicited e-mails, make sure that there’s value to the recipient. If you don’t, the person may very well consider it “spam” and delete it unread.
  • Nothing is private. Even when a message is deleted, many software programs and online services can access messages on a computer’s hard drive. Before you click on “send,” consider what may happen if the message is read by someone else — like the boss. The general rule of thumb is don’t send personal or confidential e-mails at work.
  • Keep attachments to a minimum. The larger the attached document, the longer it takes to download and the more memory space it fills on a recipient’s computer. Some e-mail attachments may not be necessary. Consider faxing lengthy documents instead of using e-mail.
  • Never assume anything. While you may be an Internet pro, and familiar with the lingo and emoticons like the popular smiley face :-), don’t assume the recipient is.

The primary issue with cell phones concerns when, where and how they’re used. My contention: Unless you’re a medical or information-technology professional who may be on call all hours of the day for emergencies, there’s no need for taking or making phone calls in public areas such as restaurants, theaters, airplanes, trains or buses. Sharing any sort of company secrets or private information on the cell phone while in public is beyond risky — it can cost you a client. The walls truly do have ears.

The rule of thumb for leaving an effective voice-mail message is: Be succinct and speak slowly. Leave only pertinent information that the caller needs. When recording your own greeting, also keep the content brief. If you intend to be away from your office for any length of time, leave a detailed message about when you will return and if anyone is checking for messages in your absence.

Taking Responsibility

Imagine what the world would be like if there were no blaming, no excuses and everyone took 100% responsibility for their actions. When we say 100% responsibility, we mean that each of us needs to accept total accountability — not just a part of it — for all commitments, relationships and actions.

If you’re running late for work and someone in front of you is driving too slowly, don’t blame this person for your tardiness. Take 100% responsibility to ensure that you don’t oversleep or cut it so close that someone driving cautiously will make you late.

If you’re asked to work on a team project and one of the members doesn’t contribute on time, don’t sit back and place blame. Take 100% responsibility to complete the task with or without the difficult teammate. Do what it takes to get the job done.

People who take 100% responsibility for their assignments and behavior spend time exploring options and opportunities and are seen as more accomplished and trustworthy. The respect you’ll earn from others, plus the strength you’ll feel in controlling your destiny, should more than make up for the extra effort, patience and diligence that 100% responsibility requires.

You can avoid making career-limiting moves. All it takes is a commitment of time and energy — which is well worth the benefits to your career aspirations.

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