Have you ever skipped out on happy hour with your colleagues? Speculated with an officemate about those two co-workers who are getting a little too friendly? Gone to a networking event you didn't care about just because someone influential would be there? For most people, the answer to at least one of these questions is yes.
On the surface, these all probably seem harmless; you may not even think twice about them. While declining a few social invitations certainly won't get you fired, habits like these could damage your professional reputation over time. Here are six common actions that are worse for your career than you may realize.
Engaging in office gossip. Smart workers know better than to spread rumors about their colleagues, but many people get sucked into the occasional game of "he said, she said" in the office. Or perhaps you don't contribute to the conversations, but you've listened intently when someone else told a juicy story. You spend most of your waking hours with these individuals, so it's only natural that they'd be the subject of less-than-professional conversations now and then, right? Not necessarily, said Cristin Sturchio, global head of talent at business research company Cognolink.
"You might think that everyone does it and it's no big deal, [but] office gossip is harmful," Sturchio told Business News Daily. "If you align yourself with gossips, your reputation will suffer, because people know who the gossips are in a company and they are not trusted. Besides, if someone is talking to you about someone else, what do you think they're saying about you when you're not around? Be brave and politely tell the people around to stop gossiping."
Being a "yes man/woman." You've seen them in movies and TV shows, and probably even know some yourself: the people who take the boss's word as gospel and never dare to disagree. Sucking up and telling the boss exactly what he or she wants to hear may seem like a smart strategy to stay on management's good side, and you should support your manager if you genuinely agree with his or her approach. But the truth is, no one likes a sycophant.
"What is the value of an employee if he or she doesn't bring anything to the table?" said Ruslan Fazlyev, CEO of e-commerce solution Ecwid. "Companies hire different individuals for their unique perspectives and skills. So do not hesitate to speak up when you think there is a better way to address something."
Skipping workplace social events. You're tired. You've already made other plans. You don't want to be out late. These trite excuses are your ticket out of an after-work group outing you'd really rather not attend. It's technically not part of your job description, so you may not feel any obligation to spend more time with the people you just clocked eight-plus hours with today. However, you might want to reconsider your stance if you hope to bond with people who could one day boost your career.
"Not everyone loves going to office social gatherings, but if you don't go to any, you miss out on building relationships with colleagues," Sturchio said. "You can't get results without relationships — they go hand-in-hand. These events are also opportunities to get in front of people you may not interact much with in the office."
Faking an interest for the sake of networking. The opposite career-killing problem occurs when a person attends every event they possibly can, even if they have no interest in it, just for the chance to network with someone influential in the individual's industry. This is especially true in the higher levels of the corporate world, where golf outings and tennis matches are the ultimate work-leisure activities. But Suni Munshani, CEO of data security firm Protegrity, advised against feigning interest in anything in the name of networking.
"I've seen people take up [sporting] activities thinking that they will be able to form friendships with powerful executives who like those activities," Munshani said. "However, the people who really enjoy those things can see right through someone who is just doing it for networking opportunities."
Munshani suggested pursuing your own interests outside of work before taking up someone else's hobby. When you engage in things you're passionate about, the right networking opportunities will occur naturally, and you can develop business relationships based on mutual respect, he said.
Staying at a job for the money. Struggling with the choice between a job that pays well and a job you genuinely love is more common than you think. The big paycheck is nice, but is it really worth it to be stuck doing something you hate? If your financial situation allows for it, it's always better to take an opportunity that lets you pursue your passion. You may have to give up a few luxuries, but at least you won't be stressed and miserable going to work every day.
"If you choose a job that you do not enjoy because of the higher income, then you're trapped," Fazlyev said. "Doing something you don't like will negatively impact your career development. Your peers who chose to pursue their dream job will see a steady growth professionally and income-wise, while you will most likely not because you lack the passion. Your personal life could also be affected if you do not enjoy your job."
Walking away without fixing issues. Any professional who's had a rough week (or month or year) has likely contemplated throwing in the towel and looking for a new job. If you're having problems with your job duties or co-workers, it's best to try to work through your issues before deciding to quit.
Munshani gave an example of a former employee who was unable to effectively communicate with his team and supervisors when market changes forced the company to take a new approach. When it was time to implement a plan, the employee couldn't explain what he needed his team to do, nor could he explain to management what the team needed in order to be successful through the transition.
"Rather than work on improving those skills or asking for help from others, he ended up leaving the company and giving up a potential $1 million in compensation he could have earned if he had seen the transition through," Munshani said.