9 Common Career Blunders (and How to Avoid Them)
No matter how hard you work, over the course of your career, you’re bound to encounter more than a few roadblocks. Whether you get a surprisingly negative annual review or your workload triples after a hiring freeze, there are some problems that seem unavoidable. Here, a selection of the most common on-the-job obstacles and how to steer clear of them.
1. YOU JUST SENT AN EMAIL TO THE WRONG PERSON.
In the split second after you clicked the send button, you realized your 500-word rant about your team’s talentless hack of a new hire was actually a “reply all” that included not just your supervisor but your brand new coworker.
How to avoid it: Just don’t do it. Operate under the mindset that every email you send will be read by your boss . . . and your boss’s boss. In most cases, in fact, this could be true: The company owns your work email and has the capability to access all of your messages. If you want to say something to a work friend that might ruffle feathers, save it for happy hour.
2. YOU GOT A BAD PERFORMANCE REVIEW.
Just when you thought a raise might be in your near future, you were blindsided with a massive blow: Your boss says you aren’t meeting expectations.
How to avoid it: In an ideal world, the feedback at your annual evaluation would never come as a surprise—your boss should be bringing up issues as they arise. If that’s not the case, seek out opportunities to receive constructive criticism. Ask for a monthly “check-in” meeting and read between the lines. If your boss, for instance, suddenly asks to be included on email correspondence to a client, it might be a sign that there are some trust issues to work through.
3. YOU’RE CONSTANTLY PLAYING CATCH-UP.
By the time you power up your computer in the morning, you already feel behind. Not only is your inbox overflowing, but you don’t have time to prep for a meeting because you’re being disturbed by a different coworker every few minutes.
How to avoid it: Just because your company’s official start time is 9 a.m. doesn’t mean you can’t show up early. Getting to work even 15 minutes before the rest of your team can save you hours over the course of the week. That uninterrupted time can help you power through some urgent tasks and organize the day ahead so you aren’t always operating one step behind.
4. YOU CAN’T FOCUS ON A PROJECT LONG ENOUGH TO COMPLETE IT.
Let’s face it, the workplace comes with many distractions. Whether it’s coworkers chatting about weekend plans or your own computer’s Internet connection tempting you with social media notifications and viral videos, it’s easy to waste valuable time on unimportant pursuits.
How to avoid it: A simple set of headphones—playing music or not—can help keep colleagues from bothering you with non-work-related conversation. And as for the online rabbit hole, consider turning off your Wi-Fi connection or setting up an Internet restriction program (which limits your access to social media and other fun places) when you need to focus on an important memo. Reward yourself with 10 minutes on your favorite site only after you complete it.
5. YOU HAVE THE WORLD’S WORST BOSS.
Your supervisor micromanages, takes credit for your work, and always comes down hard on you, even when it’s not your fault. You dread every interaction and have begun to realize that it’s only getting worse.
How to avoid it: Once you’re working for someone, there’s little you can do. Waiting for them to take another job is risky, and hoping they’ll change is a pipe dream. The most crucial way to avoid bosses like this is to keep an eye out for them during your application process. Sure, you’re the one being officially interviewed, but it’s just as important for you to subtly interview your potential supervisors. Ask them about their management style, how they balance their workload, and what they expect from their employees.
6. YOU’RE OVERWORKED.
There’s been a hiring freeze and your workload triples. No matter how hard you try to keep up—working long hours, skipping lunch, coming in on weekends to catch up—there’s always more on your plate than you can handle.
How to avoid it: Just say no. Although it might behoove you to be a little less blunt, it’s important to mitigate your boss’s expectations for what you are capable of accomplishing. An unrealistic workload can result in sloppiness, so speak honestly about what needs to be prioritized on your to-do list so that you can be most effective.
7. YOU MAKE A COSTLY MISTAKE.
Mistakes happen, but when an error turns into a major crisis—one that costs the company money, is high-profile enough to damage your employer’s reputation, or has a ripple effect of negative consequences to other teams—you can’t just hope it’ll go away on its own.
How to avoid it: There’s no way to avoid a mistake you don’t see coming, so should you make one, you’ll need to do some serious damage control. To keep from losing your boss’s respect, or worse, your job, you have to take responsibility for your actions and apologize. Give an explanation for how it happened, but tread very lightly with excuses. Then, prove you’ve learned from it by taking careful action to solve the problem.
8. YOU DON’T GET CREDIT FOR YOUR WORK.
More often than not, managers don’t notice when things are going right, only when they’re wrong. So, if you’re the type of employee to complete your assignments on time and without incident, it’s likely your boss isn’t paying you much attention. Translation: if you aren’t the squeaky wheel, you won’t get oiled.
How to avoid it: Although it might feel awkward to toot your own horn, if you want to be rewarded for a job well done, it’s important that your supervisors know what you are working on and how you’re excelling. Instead of waiting to get their attention, keep higher-ups in the loop on the work you are doing and how it’s being positively received. Simply forwarding a complimentary email exchange with a freelancer—with a short note like, “Seems like Anna is really happy working with us!”—is an easy way to highlight your successes without seeming boastful.
9. YOUR COWORKER IS A JERK.
A rocky working relationship might not seem like it should be a big deal, but considering you often spend more time at work than with your loved ones, it can completely deflate office morale to have a colleague you conflict with.
How to avoid it: It’s important to remember that you don’t have to like this person, you just have to be able to work with them. Before things go too far down a negative road, determine which methods of communication work and which don’t. If it’s easier to chat via in-office instant messenger than face-to-face, then stick with that.