There are plenty of little mistakes we all make at work constantly, and it’s accepted as part of the human process of learning and improving our skills. But some mistakes can be viewed as much more serious than others, even though all are made with good intentions and an honest commitment to work. Sometimes, making mistakes at work can result into not getting the promotion you would otherwise deserve or even in the termination of your contract. The mistakes we’re talking about affect the way you are viewed by your supervisors and peers, resulting in a bias against you.
This is why our top of the worst mistakes you can make at work, from this point of view, will refer mostly to emotional intelligence errors that you may not suspect will affect your standing so much at the time when you make them. In a way, to make mistakes in this way is similar to a social faux-pas that will just feel awkward at the moment, and come to affect your long-term social standing afterwards. These are the top ways of mistakes made at work that can directly result into losing your job eventually (or even immediately).
1. Being a Negative Nancy
Constantly dealing with ridiculous and disingenuous business jargon can become a bit much at times. However, that doesn’t justify bringing a ton of negative baggage into a workplace. We all know how draining people who are negative and complain all the time can be. Yet we sometimes fall into this trap ourselves and start spreading discontent all around, signaling at every step how much we dislike what we are doing at the time. Negativity in the workplace is one of the most serious mistakes you can make, because it affects people around you just as much as the same negativity would affect them in other, informal, contexts. Here are the top examples of such negative behavior:
- Constantly complaining about your tasks;
- Expressing pessimism and futility towards the end goals of a project and whether it will succeed;
- Whining about the difficulty of work or about the other people in the workplace;
- Constantly pointing out how some of the tasks aren’t part of the job description.
Any of these behaviors are enough to make people feel uncomfortable around you, from your boss to your colleagues. If that’s not enough to make you undesirable on the long run, few things are. Furthermore, being negative is also likely to diminish your work performance and productivity. Unfortunately, people who are prone to spreading workplace negativity may not even realize that they are displaying most of these behaviors at once, and they’re only doing it so they can feel better themselves, with no harm intended towards others. If you’re aware you tend to fall into this pattern, then read up a bit on emotional intelligence for work, and make a conscious effort to lighten up a bit. You will make your own life easier, not to mention everyone else’s.
2. Being Overly Enthusiastic and Then Not Delivering on Your Promises
On the opposing end of the perkiness spectrum, we have the people who are always apparently optimistic and over-promising, only to fail to deliver on their commitments in the end. You may be full of good intentions and plan on respecting your word in order to impress your supervisors, but the problem is that the goals you proposed are simply not achievable in a normal time frame. Or you may have a problem appreciating what you can or cannot deliver, or you may simply tend to slack after promising to make that delivery. Whatever the case is, you need to stop: your initial enthusiasm will not compensate for the disappointment your workmates and boss will feel when you don’t keep your end of the deal. Creating this type of disappointment is one of the worst ways to make a mistake at work.
3. A Bad Poker Face (Or a General Lack of Emotional Intelligence)
We addressed this issue above when discussing negativity in the workplace, but there are plenty of other ways in which a lack of emotional intelligence can make you unpleasant and end up getting you fired. Most of the time, if we’re not discussing actual outbursts or angry rants and the tendency to belittle others (and hopefully it’s not the case), the sure-fire way to make a mistake at work from an emotional point of view is to not have a reasonable poker face. Yes, in many social situations, we are required by standards of politeness to hide our feelings of boredom, irritation, superiority and so on. If these feelings are always visible on your face in spite of your otherwise decent behavior, you will have a problem.
4. Solicitation (Even Unintentional)
Making mistakes at work can sometimes include a subtle faux-pas that you may not even realize you are committing. Always make sure that any invitations to events outside of the workplace (from a lunch date to sending out emails inviting people to your kid’s fundraising activity or whatever) isn’t breaking any part of your company policy. Even if you see other people doing the same thing, you may still be in danger of breaking a rule. If you do, your employer may not even need to wait around for you to make mistakes in the actual work, but terminate your contract anyway because of the rule breaking.
5. Improper Use of Company Resources and Supplies
This isn’t about actual stealing or abusing the company’s resources, or at least not in a way many people relate to these notions. Small mix-ups and a general tendency to use the company’s resources and perks to your personal benefits is one of the worst ways of making mistakes at work. These can include using the company’s mailing account to order a last-minute delivery for the holidays or abusing the company’s phone for a private matter, or simply taking some printer paper with you when you’ve run out of it at home. Whatever the case, if your supervisor is already unhappy with your work, this can amount to stealing from the company and give them proper cause to fire you. Also, even if no one is looking to terminate your contract, it just makes you look pretty unprofessional.
6. Speaking on Behalf of the Company or Your Boss
If you’re not the company’s PR representative, with very clear orders and directions on what to communicate to others, then maybe it’s a good idea not to start talking about things you aren’t specifically authorized on. You must practice this sort of discretion even in your personal social media life: you shouldn’t identify as an employee of the company you work for when sharing your personal opinions online. This may create the wrong impression that you are speaking on behalf of the company and contributing to an overall bad image of it. While you may think it’s a harmless and innocent way of making mistakes at work, its effects can escalate into a veritable PR disaster, which is why companies tend to be quite touchy about it and have zero-tolerance against this type of appropriation.
As you can see, there are ways and ways to make a mistake in your work environment, and some of them, even seemingly harmless, can seriously hurt your company, your co-workers, and sure enough your own career prospects. The kind of mistakes that can get you fired aren’t at all dramatic and significant; in fact, most of the time they amount to some variation of the mistakes presented above. Be mindful of your peers and your actions, perhaps get some reading on career-focused books and articles, and all should be fine.