Workplace Goofs

Office Party Don’ts You Do Need to Know

The Christmas season is in full swing and office holiday parties are rocking. After a long, stressful year with heavier workloads, you may be planning to release some steam and have a grand-old-time at the office party. Go ahead and have a ball and enjoy time with your co-workers, remember to keep the fun workplace-appropriate. So, here are three important tips you should know before you head to your company’s shindig.

Don’t vent about work. Even though being at a holiday party after traditional work  hours can make you feel more comfortable and free to speak your mind, be sure you leave work at work. Don’t bring ill feelings to the holiday party because doing so could put a damper on the evening for you and your fellow co-workers. And, if a co-worker starts sounding like the office Grinch, try to change the subject to a more positive subject, such as family, friends, or plans for the holidays. Use this time to learn more about what your co-workers enjoy beyond the workplace, and you’ll be sure to leave the party feeling a little jollier.

Keep it professional. Human resource policies are still in effect at after-hour work events, so be cautious about what you say and do. Be on your best behavior. It takes time to build up a good reputation in the workplace, and you don’t want to ruin it in a matter of seconds by doing something inappropriate. To keep regret from following you like the Ghost of Christmas Past, be sure you maintain a professional demeanor at the holiday office party. 

Be aware of the dress attire. Even though a party may be happening at a local restaurant or facility, it’s important to know what’s acceptable and not acceptable to wear for the occasion. It’s always best to err on the side of caution. Since co-workers and probably their guests will be present, keep your dress more conservative and professional, but more casual than everyday office attire. For example, a nice pair of dress slacks or a skirt with a nice dress shirt. But some Christmas parties are more formal. To be sure of what to wear, check with management and your co-workers to determine what is appropriate.

It’s important to attend your holiday work parties, and they are intended to be a time of enjoyment. Network, mingle, laugh, and have fun, but just keep in mind that it’s still a work function, with managers and co-workers present. 

The Fundamental Office Tasks No One Teaches You

FundamentalOfficeTasks In an office environment, everyone is responsible for accomplishing specific tasks that generally require training. But, knowing how to accomplish basic tasks in the workplace that everyone is responsible for is important and will help you get your job done more efficiently. However, employers don’t always spend a lot of time training new employees on the processes and procedures for common office tasks. No matter your position at your job, learning basic office chores like making copies and filing documents is essential to your work. Basic office responsibilities may seem simple, but every company differs in the way they answer the phone to the way they distribute office mail. If you’re already in the workforce or soon will be, the following are basic information you should know about general office tasks.

Electronics. Almost every office uses various types of electronics. Whether it’s a photocopier, fax machine, or printer, be sure to find out how to use the equipment in your office. Learn how to add paper and fix basic paper jams. If your office uses one, know the code required for your photocopier or fax machine. Have a supervisor or co-worker teach you how to use the office equipment to help you avoid lost productivity and the frustration you feel when you can’t make the quick copy you need. Since administrative assistants perform tasks like these on a daily basis, they can be a great resource when you have questions about equipment in your office.

Timecards. Timecards are used in most office environments, and it’s very important to know how to fill them out correctly. So, when you start a new job, make sure you learn the right way to complete your timecard. Find out the deadline to submit timecards and who to submit them to. If your office submits timecards online, make sure you add the website to your list of favorites and keep the correct login information on file.

Filing systems. Filing systems are methods of storing and organizing files and their data in an office. Every business and employee has different methods and systems for filing information. While you may be allowed to organize your files to your preference, other documents in your office like legal papers and contracts should be filed according to company standards. Some businesses use job jackets, hanging file folders, notebooks, specific computer programs, or a combination of filing systems to file important documents, so make sure you follow your company’s system when filing information digitally and in print.

E-mail and meeting management tools. Computer software like Microsoft Outlook a very useful tool to help you manage your e-mail and meeting appointments. If you’re not familiar with your team’s e-mail management system, check out the software's free tutorials to learn the ends and outs for the program. You could even learn a few tricks like flagging e-mails or scheduling tasks to utilize this tool to its full potential. But, whatever software you use to manage your e-mail, if you don’t purge your e-mail inbox on a regular basis, it can get clustered fast. Be sure to keep your inbox clean and perform regular maintenance. Also, follow the company’s policies on using company e-mail and other electronic communication devices.

Office phones. As simple as using a phone may be, office phones may have a lot of buttons that can be a little tricky at times. Get a list of the different codes and extensions for co-workers so you can reference them when needed. Also, make sure you know how to transfer a call, place a call on hold, and join conference calls. Find out how to program your voicemail. Learn the phone protocol for leaving the office at lunch or for a meeting. Be sure you know the proper phone etiquette your office requires when answering a call.

The mail system. Since you may occasionally have to send out mail, make sure you’re aware of your team’s mailing procedures for regular business mail, shipping services like FedEx and UPS, and inter-office mail. Some businesses assign individuals to pick up and deliver mail from department inboxes. Or, you may have to take items to be shipped directly to the mail room. Find out where the mail room is located and where you can get supplies like shipping boxes, business and inter-office envelopes, and shipping tape so you don’t waste time looking for them when you need to get something in the mail fast.

Ordering office supplies. Most offices have a policy for ordering supplies, so find out how to request the supplies you need and when they submit orders so you don’t have to do without your much needed Post-it notes or white out. Some companies only provide certain items so make sure you ask what supplies you’ll be able to access. Also, make sure you know who’s responsible for ordering.

Remember, all offices differ in one way or another and the best time to ask questions about basic tasks is when you’re still new to the job. Don’t sit back in your chair waiting for someone to teach you how to make copies, take the initiative and learn how to make them now. Then, you’ll be ready to tackle whatever projects come your way.

When to Share and Not to Share Stories at Work

Recently, I wrote a blog about job search tips and how my brother used some more traditional techniques to find a job. But before I wrote that story, I wondered just how much I really wanted my co-workers, let alone the public, to know about my family’s personal life. I decided to go ahead and share my brother’s story because I felt it would help others who were in similar situations.

I’ve often used my family and their job search methods for inspiration when writing. I’m pretty open about my own personal life with colleagues at work, but have wondered on more than one occasion whether or not I should have told a particular story. Which brings me to my question:  What does telling personal stories at work say about you and how does it affect others’ perceptions of you?

I’ve come to the conclusion, that although some stories are OK to share in the workplace, others are best left to be shared with close friends and family members outside the office.

So, if you’re trying to move up the career ladder, present yourself as a professional, or simply be seen as a dependable, hard working employee, inappropriate stories about your fun-filled weekend or fights with your spouse are not the types of topics you want to discuss with your teammates.

Have you shared too much and not realized it until it was too late? Did it affect your work relationships or your career? What kind of stories have you heard in the workplace that you felt were inappropriate? Leave your comments in the section below.

Should You Talk Politics at Work?

With all the talk about the upcoming election – not to mention the candidates, the economy, and the new bailout bill that just passed, politics is a hot topic of conversation – just about as hot as whether or not we should be talking about it at work. In the past, politics has been a major faux paus of controversial topics, along with sex, money, and religion – not just at work, but in general. But, as our culture has changed, people are more and more vocal about their opinions in a variety of places, from blogs to conversation with friends.

When you spend so much time at work chatting it up with your fellow co-workers about all other types of issues, it’s hard not to bring up your thoughts and opinions about this hot topic – one of the most historic elections in our lifetime.

Don’t Job Hunt at Work and Other Tips

Job HuntingMy friend was telling me how she has a job but is looking for a new one. Now, she is escalating her job search, much like many other U.S. workers. According to a survey by, 57% of workers are intensifying their job hunt within the next three months despite fears of recession.

Inadequate compensation, lack of career advancement and professional development, insufficient recognition, and boredom were the top five reasons for leaving a job.

But, she set off warning bells in my head when she told me that she was surfing the internet for job opportunities while at work. Searching for other employment opportunities on the job can lead to being reprimanded or worse, termination. To avoid ending up jobless and without any job leads, conduct your job hunt discretely while employed. Follow these job search dos and don’ts:

  • Don’t advertise your job search around the office. How do you expect others to keep your job hunt a secret when you can’t keep from opening your mouth?
  • Do ask for confidentiality. When needing discretion, simply ask prospective employers for the respect of confidentiality and to not contact your current boss. It won’t hurt your chances of getting a job offer. Use former employers as references if needed.
  • Don’t use work telephones and e-mails for contact information. Since work phones and e-mails can be monitored and are considered company property, use personal phones and home e-mail addresses on résumés or employment forms. Also, make sure to use cell phones while away from your desk, out of earshot from others. Make sure to use your own time on breaks and at lunch, and not on company time.
  • Do schedule an interview before work, during lunch, or after work. Not interviewing during work hours shows respect toward your current employer, and good recruiters are usually prepared to accommodate. If you must schedule an interview during business hours, use PTO time.
  • Don’t wear interview clothes to work if you normally dress casually. Dressing out of the ordinary will draw attention to yourself. If you have an interview before, during or after work, find time to change in between.
  • Do your job search on your own time. Never browse for job opportunities while your boss is paying you to work. Save the search for break time, lunch hours, or after-hours, but don’t use the company’s internet.
  • Don’t job search with company money. Using the company paper and printer to print out résumés is a major no-no. Mail them out with your own postage. Your current employer is not financing your job hunt. Make sure you do all of this at home.

Following proper job hunting etiquette while still employed will show your potential employer that you are respectful toward employers, and will keep you from being terminated before you’re ready to make a move.

Don’t Quit Like This: What You Can Learn From These Mistakes

Quitting a job isn’t always easy. There are right – and wrong – ways to quit a job, and not everyone makes the most appropriate decision when it comes to giving notice. But, you can learn from the case studies we shared about what not to do. Instead, try using the three tips below to gracefully make your exit.

Make sure you have a plan. Currently, the average job search takes six months according to Tori Johnson, CEO of Women for Hire and workplace contributor for ABC’s Good Morning America, so don’t assume you’ll land a better, higher-paying job next week if you decide to quit today. Whether it’s living off your savings, having another job lined up, or heading down to your local staffing agency to find temporary work, have a plan in place before you quit your job. Being prepared will prevent undue financial stress and frustration when you can’t find work immediately following your departure.

Don’t rush your decision. When you’re angry, upset, or frustrated, you might make rash decisions that you’ll regret later, so don’t quit when you first find yourself feeling this way. Step back, take a breath, and evaluate what’s going on. Are you constantly feeling this way, or is this a one-time incident that you can overcome? A lot of anger and frustration comes from simple misunderstandings, so communicate with your supervisor and team, and try to work out any problem areas together. This may take a day, a week, or even a month. You’ll make a better decision about quitting when you’re thinking clearly.

Leave on a good note. Potential employers often call your previous employers for job references, so you never want to leave on bad terms. Give as much notice as possible, even if circumstances don’t allow for the standard of two weeks. And, always inform your supervisor if you won’t be returning to work. Regardless of your prior work history, how you leave will be what is top of mind to that employer if someone calls for a reference.

Leaving a job isn’t always easy, but you can avoid derailing your career or sinking yourself into debt if you prepare ahead of time, make a clear decision, and leave on a good note. So the next time you leave a job, think about how you can effectively handle the situation by learning from others’ mistakes and using these tips to give your notice.

Don’t Quit Like This: 3 Ways Not to End a Job

Leaving a job can be stressful for anyone, whether you’re pursuing another opportunity or leaving for personal reasons. But, taking the right steps when you quit can make the transition from one job to another smoother for both you, your career, and your employer. Here are three real-life scenarios where individuals left their jobs in less than ideal conditions. How do you think they could have handled the situation better? We’ll provide you with tips on how to effectively handle quitting a job in part 2 of this series.

Leaving without a plan. Ray felt stuck in his job and had been searching for something else for months but to no avail. He didn’t enjoy his work, received little help from his co-workers, and was stressed to the max. After being away from the office for a few days due to a family emergency, he called in on the day he was to return and gave his notice. He decided not to go back to work but didn’t have any interviews lined up either. He’s still struggling to find a job months later, and he’s running out of money.

Jumping ship without notice. Jessie worked for an acquaintance for several years in a position with no room for advancement. When she found another opportunity that provided benefits, better pay, and career potential, she jumped at the chance. But as a conflict-avoider, she didn’t want to face her boss and tell him she was quitting. So, she simply never returned to work and ignored his phone calls. She already had another job and wasn’t worried about it.

Quitting out of anger. Greg was a strong performer at work, constantly completing projects early, helping others with their work, and moving up within the company. But he had a hot temper, and one day, a co-worker made a remark about his work that offended Greg, who didn’t give his co-worker the opportunity to clarify the comment. An argument began and quickly escalated. Greg was so angry he collected his things, told his supervisor he quit, and walked out the door.

Have you left a job in one of these ways? If so, what happened? How has it affected you or your job search? Did you jeopardize your career, ruin your chances at another opportunity, or lose a reference? Let us know in the comments section below. In part 2 of this series, we’ll discuss effective ways to give your notice.