MOST people have done something they regret in their careers. They get a sinking feeling in their stomach every time they think about it.
I have personally observed during my career in human resources that people sabotage their careers with obvious or unobvious ways:
1. Deceptive and dishonest practices
You may not get caught the first time but eventually someone is going to find out. At that time, take responsibility. Don’t act like the three-year-old who denies that he ate the last cookie even though chocolate is smeared all over his face.
2. Illegal practices
I’m not referring to taking company stationery home. I’m thinking more along the lines of stealing a laptop, making false expenses claims or stealing privileged information for a friend who works for a competitor. Don’t worry about losing your job; focus on finding an attorney to keep you out of jail.
3. Missing in action during business hours
Everyone takes a long lunch or knocks off early for happy hour every once in a while. Acting as if you have been on a business trip (that you claimed expenses for) when you were actually on a mini-vacation is taking it to the extreme. This also falls under the two previous points. Another example is hanging a sign on your office door indicating that you are in a three-hour meeting when you are out shopping for a new car.
4. Sex and work
They just don’t mix. Whether you are having a quickie in an empty office or you are having an affair with your (married or single) boss, it will affect your career. Unless you are looking for a severance package or a reputation, I don’t recommend it.
5. Unprofessional image and attire
In many countries, the dress code in the workplace has relaxed over the last few years. However, the following are not acceptable:
Leather in any form other than shoes, such as skirts, blouses, vests, or pants;
Visible belly rings, thongs or cleavage;
Drowning yourself in perfume or cologne; and
Wearing dirty, wrinkled clothes or both.
As a HR manager, I have often told new employees to check their attire before leaving each morning and if they hesitated even slightly, they should change.
6. Become the company “suck-up”
There is one in every company. You know the type — they have their lips perpetually planted on the management’s boots. Typically, this path is taken because the person has very little to offer. They become the undeserved, go-to person at the expense of their co-workers and all levels of management between themselves and their new best friend.
If this sounds like you, it is time to make a complete career change to a company where your reputation cannot follow. You will never be able to change the opinions that have been formed by your existing co-workers. Choose a career where you can add value so you don’t fall back on old habits.
7. Making a fool of yourself at company-sponsored functions
All executives will have to attend company-sponsored functions, with or without clients. Do not drink heavily or act like the office Romeo. Even if you are not in the office, you are still at work — behave accordingly.