7 Strategies for Women Who Want to be the Boss at Work

Even today, there are some unspoken double standards for women and men in the workplace. Sure, we’ve (hopefully) moved on from the worst of the Mad Men style of blatant sexism in the office, and these days you can find women working alongside men at all levels of an industry. Still, stereotypes and differences linger in every field, every industry, every job. So what can you do, as a professional woman, to help get through this minefield of professional issues and excel at work?

1. Dress the part.

This is definitely one of those double standard gray areas. Do you let yourself dress casually (or even on the slouchy side) like some of your male colleagues might do, to show that you’re their equal? Or do you lean into the idea that women should be dressing more nicely at work? It’s a valid debate, but whenever a work dress code is up for discussion, always err on the side of dressing up a notch or two. But unfairly or not, women are often held to a higher standard—and the more professionally you dress, the more professional you seem.

If you work in an office where jeans and sneakers are the unofficial uniform, you don’t need to bust out your fanciest pantsuit. A jacket or blazer over your jeans can bump up the professional factor in a super-cazh office, or that same blazer over crisp, tailored pants in a business-casual environment works as well. Always on the “don’t even think about it” list: low-cut anything, tops that show more skin than they cover, short skirts, and flamboyant jewelry or accessories. Wearing these things can distract attention from how well you’re doing your job, and give people a reason to take you less-than-seriously.

2. Don’t let others undercut your authority.

If you have direct reports or are in a position of authority, make sure people treat you accordingly. I’ve been in situations where clients would automatically start talking past me to my boss or to male colleagues in the room, when I was actually the one responsible for making day-to-day decisions and getting things done on the client’s behalf. If you can feel someone eroding your authority (and they may not even realize they’re doing it), firmly remind them of your role. Make sure that people understand what you’re bringing to the table: “As Chip’s supervisor, I’ll be the one making sure our team reports the sales.” “In my experience as a ________, I can see what the challenges will be here.”

You’ve worked hard to get to your role, and you deserve to be acknowledged for it.

3. Be assertive (but not overly aggressive).

In a perfect world, my advice would be “go for it, lady! Show them what’s what, in no uncertain terms!” In this imperfect world, however, women perceived as aggressive bosses or colleagues can quickly find themselves tagged as “witches” (or the similar word we all know), “ballbusters,” and the like. This can be just as damaging to workplace respect and progress than being a pushover. It’s totally unfair, because everyone has their own personal style, and some people are just aggressive—but these perceptions are a fact of professional life, at least for now. So how does one find that place where one is upfront about what one wants but isn’t perceived as some kind of monster? Where is that sweet spot of straightforward respect and authority?

Essentially, the best way to get there is saying what you want, but being careful about how it’s phrased. Making blunt demands, or giving feedback like “that’s wrong” is likely to turn off your audience, male or female. This is where stellar communication skills come in handy. Use a tone that’s non-confrontational, so that the other person isn’t automatically feeling defensive and ready to mutiny. And even when you disagree, try to find some common element that you can use as an olive branch before explaining what you want to do differently: “I see what you’re saying, and although I do agree that we need to raise revenue, I see it a little differently.”

One strategy is to ask questions instead of diving in with statements. That way, you can be part of starting a dialogue instead of something that can be perceived as an “attack.” Asking clarification questions like “where do you see this going?” or “how does this impact our goals?” opens up a communication line with the other speaker, and will give you an opportunity to say what you want to express as part of the back-and-forth.

4. Don’t be afraid to speak up.

When I was younger, I was told things like “never disagree with your boss in public.” And now that I’ve been around longer, I think that’s true—to an extent. I’d modify it to, “if you disagree, do it respectfully—and pick your moments.” One of the biggest challenges facing many professional women (especially younger ones) is the idea that they should hang back and let more senior people hash things out. And while I don’t recommend inserting yourself into every single debate in every single meeting just for the sake of being heard, remember that you’re in the room for a reason. If you disagree with something being discussed, don’t be afraid to say so—but again, always phrase it as respectfully and diplomatically as possible.

And again, pick your moment. If your boss is giving a presentation in front of bigwigs, and you see that she’s wrong about something, don’t throw her under the bus in front of everyone, or give a loud and long dissent in the meeting. If you’re directly asked about your opinion, give it carefully. Or talk about it offline with your boss later. Your opinion is valuable, and your insights can earn you respect and acknowledgment if they’re expressed well.

5. Don’t let people talk over you.

We’ve all been there: you’re talking about something work-related, and a colleague (often older and male) breaks in and, in a dismissive tone, gives an opinion about why you’re wrong, without letting you finish the thought. Unless you’ve been filibustering the floor with a long monologue, this is poor form on the interruptor’s part. And no one likes this kind of bullying tactic. So how do you handle in the moment? Politely interrupt them back, and ask to finish your point, or try to turn it into a dialogue instead of a lecture.

6. Advocate for yourself.

This is, hands-down, one of the best things you can do to get respect at work. Knowing what you want, and how to ask for it, is a skill that will serve every professional (male or female) well throughout a career. Being able to negotiate is a key leadership skill, and one every woman should have at the ready as a professional. Asking for what you want is a great first step, but you also need to know how to navigate what comes next: an offer, a counteroffer, and when to agree or walk away.

7. Know when to fold ‘em.

If you’re in a work situation where you try all these strategies and you’re still not getting the level of professional respect you deserve, then it could very well be time to walk away. You’re not obligated to stay in a role where you are defined and treated according to stale old perceptions about what women are and should be, so if you find that you’re spending more time counteracting stereotypes than actually doing your job, it could be time to get out. There’s no shame in wanting to find a better environment for your skills and personality. And with your brushed-up negotiation skills, your next opportunity could be right around the corner.

Every professional deserves respect: male, female, young, old, green, experienced. Stepping up to request and take that respect, however, can be a big challenge. We still have a long way to go before everyone in the workplace is completely equal (even in the most gender-balanced fields and the most supportive companies, decades-old perceptions tend to die hard), but in the meantime, we hope you never stop striving to get everything you can out of your career.

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7 Warning Signs Your Talent Is Being Wasted at Work

So you sought out a job, went through the interview process, and got hired. Whoo hoo, so exciting! What’s more, you even feel confident that you were the best out of the bunch of candidates. But all the same, maybe since you started you haven’t been quite sure that your talents and particular skills are being used to their full effect.

Take a look at the following warning signs that you are not reaching your full potential. If a few of these signs apply to you, you might want to consider seeking out a bigger pond, one where you can stretch your wings, challenge yourself, and reach the career goals you know you’re capable of reaching.

1. Your boss is threatened by your best ideas.

If all your ideas end up in the “Maybe Someday” file, and your manager seems to prefer bumping along with the status quo rather than pushing the envelope, you’re not going to get much traction. Maybe you’re hearing a lot of “but this is how it’s always been done” and not enough “that’s a great idea; we should try it,” or getting shut down (or outright ignored) by your boss for ideas you know to be good. If any of this is the case, then maybe it’s time to start to worry.

2. You work with automatons.

Instead of everyone pitching in to realize some long-term goal or vision, you find that all of your coworkers are merely on autopilot, doing task after task that doesn’t seem to generate any new sparks or momentum.

3. You never receive any sort of appreciation.

If you’re working hard and no one at work sees you for the superstar you are, then you A) haven’t shown them, or B) they’ve seen your talents and are choosing to ignore them. Your once bright future starts to grey.

4. You’re trapped.

Are you confined by your title? This could be your own fault or the fault of your workplace: you’re so hemmed in by your specific role and tasks that you don’t feel the freedom to be able to fluidly reach out to your team members and help with other projects and initiatives when necessary. Even if this kind of effort might require you to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, it can be good for your growth.

5. Your boss is putting your light under a bushel.

Whether your boss is afraid of change or threatened by your rising star, perhaps he or she isn’t being the kind of mentor that lets you shine. Maybe they even call you in and tell you to hold back a little, or pipe down in meetings, instead of batting around your best ideas.

6. Your company values policy over passion.

You’re a rule-follower, and you’re feeling stifled. It’s possible that you’re very comfortable where you are, but still—biding your time and knowing real change and real challenge are too far around the corner to be feasible it a recipe for nothingness. Meanwhile, you keep on toeing the company line and following policies you don’t think are best practice. You’re going nowhere, and slowly.

7. You’re burnt out and bored.

After your first entry-level gigs, you should probably never be bored at work. If your job is boring you, it’s time to move on for sure. Watch for burn-out also; it’s not just for people in high powered careers that work too fast and too hard. It can strike anyone who’s been grappling with long-term demoralization and lack of inspiration. Remember, you’re a person, not a robot just completing tasks.

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9 Reasons You Might Be Failing at Your Career—And How to Fix It

The time has come to talk about the “F” word. (No, not that “F” word.) Failure. No matter who you are or what you do, that word usually has the power to strike fear. If you suspect you’re already failing in your life (for example, you’re not where you thought you would be at this point, or you’ve experienced setbacks), that can be incredibly intimidating. It may keep you from shaking off bad habits and picking up new ones that would get you in a better place. This is especially true in your career. It can be super easy to fall into an inertia bubble and then find yourself shrugging helplessly when you know it’s time to get out.

Let’s look at some of the reasons you might think you’re failing at your professional life, and what you can do about them.

1. You feel helpless to make changes.

This is one I struggle with all. the. time. You may not think you’re helpless per se, but maybe you just feel overwhelmed by daily minutiae, and you feel like staying afloat is all you can accomplish. If you’re managing only what comes your way, you’re troubleshooting rather than improving.

What to do about it: Realize that you do have a say in your daily life, even at work where things might seem very regimented or non-negotiable. If you want to take more agency and control in your life, it starts with you. Learn to advocate for yourself, and negotiate what you want. You’d be surprised at what you can get if you learn to ask for it in the right way.

2. You’re too busy blaming other people.

I’d be much further along if Susan weren’t getting all the attention and good projects at work. I’d be making more money if Frank paid more attention to what I’m doing. I’d have a better job if it weren’t for my cat/my parents/my therapist.

What to do about it: You do you. Your career is yours, and yours alone. This means that ultimately, your decisions are your responsibility—not your cat’s, your parents’, or your therapist’s. It’s time to stop blaming, and instead start thinking about what it would take for you to get what you want: that raise, the good projects, the job you want. Blaming others takes up a lot of mental energy, which you should instead be using to do an internal audit of why things aren’t working out the way you want—and what steps you can take to make progress.

3. You’re settling for a mediocre status quo.

This is an especially insidious kind of failure. You’re comfortable enough, have a job that pays your bills, but you’re not really going anywhere. It’s settling for the good-enough-right-now, at the expense of what is good for you in the future.

What to do about it: Do things that scare you a little (within reason). You don’t have to go busting every piece of your status quo right now, but if you start by doing one thing every week that is outside your comfort zone, you’ll likely find that “status quo” expanding around you. Take on a project that is a bit of a stretch. Take a class in a new skill. Apply for that reach job. If you find yourself hesitating, ask yourself why, and what you have to lose if you go for it. And if the answer isn’t “it’s physically dangerous” or “this will cause a divorce,” then consider moving forward with it after all.

4. You don’t have the resources or education.

If you avoid applying for jobs because you don’t have the necessary skills, experience, or education, that feeling of failure may creep in while you’re browsing job openings. It’s hard not to feel like a failure if all you can see are closed doors.

What to do about it: Take a class! Going for a new degree (or completing an old one) just may not be feasible for everyone, but there are often ways to get around the traditional “going back to school” model. For skill-building, sites like offer free or relatively inexpensive courses you can take on your own time. There are also many universities and colleges that offer part-time degree programs, or non-degree courses online. There are so many ways to stay academically active and keep learning, even when time or money is tight.

5. You’re avoiding hard truths.

Facing reality is hard. That’s why we have 8 million things to distract our attention at any given time. Cat videos, TV, social media—we all have ways of decompressing and avoiding reality for a while. Those are all temporary, though. Ultimately you’ll have to think about new and different ways of doing things, or facts that make you uncomfortable. If you’ve been avoiding thinking about your professional future because it might lead to uncomfortable realizations about the choices you’ve made and the ones you will need to make in the future, then you’re setting yourself up for failure.

What to do about it: Time for a little self-audit. Where are you in your career, what’s keeping you in it, and where do you want to be in five years? This is an exercise just for you—no one else will see or judge, so it’s important to be extremely honest about what you have, and what you want.

6. You think you’re too old to make changes.

We often pick our career paths pretty early in life, based on what we want to study in college, or what we think we’d be good at doing when we’re 18. And think about it: how well do many of the life decisions you made when you were 18 still hold up? How many of your hobbies and interests are the same? You’re not locked into a career that you chose because it seemed like a good idea at the time. As you change, you’re never too old to change your professional path.

What to do about it: If you feel stuck in a path that doesn’t interest you anymore, think about making a change—no matter how significant. Think about what it is you want to be doing, and start doing real research into what it would take—like education, certification, or skills. These are all things you can work on in the meantime, before you make any big moves.

7. Your fear of failure has you pinned down.

Failing because you fear failure? Is that a thing? Yes, yes it is. It’s possible to back right into failure while you’re on guard against it, avoiding risky changes or proactive steps that could result in failing. This kind of failure is sneaky, because it comes right from the place you thought you were watching.

What to do about it: Don’t be afraid to be bad at something, or to make a bad decision once in a while. Failure can actually be one of the great learning experiences, painful though it may feel in the meantime. By letting fear of failure paralyze you, it can kill your career progress. Your professional life thrives on both your successes and your failures.

8. You’re overestimating your abilities.

Full disclosure: I’m failing at being a ballet dancer. This is because I am the biggest klutz ever, I don’t have the right body type, and…oh yeah…I have very few ballet skills. So Misty Copeland’s title is probably safe. But if I expected to be a ballet dancer at this point in my career, I’d be making a fatal assumption that I could be one in my current state. It’s one thing to be confident in the abilities you have, but another thing entirely to be confident that you’ll be good at something without the education or skills to back it up. This kind of mindset lets you get comfortable in the idea that you don’t need to learn or do new things, because you’re the best the way you are.

What to do about it: Embrace your strengths, work on your weaknesses, and accept the need to be realistic about what you can do.

9. You’re not setting realistic goals.

If you’re not planning your career in a realistic way, of course you’re going to feel like a failure—you set it up that way yourself. Going from entry level to CEO in two years was never going to happen.

What to do about it: Time to set up some SMART goals. That’s Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Based. Setting these career goals both in the short-term (say, for the next year) and the long-term (five years or beyond) will help you make progress that you can quantify. There are lots of apps and tools you can use to help you, but don’t underestimate the power of a good old-fashioned checklist, and the smug, well-earned sense of satisfaction you get as you check something off the list.

If you feel like you’re failing, it’s never too late to stop, figure out why, and start taking concrete steps out of the muck. Understanding why you’re failing is the most important first step you can take.

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6 Common Negative Thoughts And How To Combat Them

We’ve been there: in a terrible state of mind, while people keep telling you to think “happy thoughts.” It’s enough to drive you nuts. But hear us out: positivity and, yes, “happy thoughts” can actually have a major impact on your success in your career and your life—while negative thoughts, or in particular, “cognitive distortions,” can have a massively bad impact on both.

Here are some strategies for how to identify negative thoughts and cognitive distortions, and how to overcome them. We hope you can free yourself of all that unnecessary shame, self-pity, fear, and resentment and get back to the good vibes.

1. I don’t have enough time.

No one really feels like they have enough hours in their day to accomplish everything they need or want to accomplish. But being busy doesn’t always have to be a source of stress. You’re making the most of life—and probably being much more productive. If you have too much on your plate, try simplifying your schedule a bit. Remember, you’re in charge of your own calendar. Then count your business as a blessing.

2. I’m not enough.

Impostor syndrome, and generally feeling you’re not as qualified as your peers, is very common. But just remember that you’re probably holding yourself to a much higher standard than you would anyone else. Give yourself a break. Step away from social media for a while. Stop comparing yourself constantly to others (and to others’ online avatars). And start focusing on what you’re doing instead.

3. This is going to be a catastrophe.

Okay, worrywart. “Castastrophizing” is a thing. The “what-ifs” are constantly plaguing you with horrible disasters and tragedies as the result of some of your simplest actions. Try to take a step back from your worries and remind yourself of some calming statistics. Don’t avoid life because you’re afraid it might be unsafe.

4. It can only be either/or.

Either I ace this presentation, or I’m going to be fired. Because I screwed up at that meeting, I’m never going to earn my boss’s trust. These are examples of polarized, or black and white thinking, and they’re not doing you any good. Remember that there is always middle ground, a grey area, and a chance to redeem yourself if you make a small (or large) mistake.

5. That’s it—I’m doomed.

Just because one thing happened that wasn’t great doesn’t mean that similar bad things will continue happening to you. And don’t make assumptions based on what you think might be going on. Say your boss talked over you in the meeting. Don’t leap to the conclusion that she hates you or that your job is in jeopardy. Try to imagine the thousand other reasons she may have had not to give you your turn with the talking stick.

6. I’m a total failure.

Life goes on. Even if you did something stupid or embarrassing, the sting is not going to last. Even if you have no idea what you’re doing and are in very much over your head, there is always an opportunity to dig your way out by gaining competence and confidence. Focus on how to turn each “failure” into an opportunity for greater success.

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6 To-Do Lists to Get Your Life in Order

Do you find the idea of making a to-do list strangely daunting? If you’re one of those people who don’t naturally tend to the to-do list, you might need a little help or inspiration to get you started.

Here are some of the best templates, options, and styles for you to try.

The Old School List

Go the simple route and simply handwrite your list. If you get a random thought and aren’t near your computer, just jot it down! You can always add it to a more high-tech list later on. You might find this method less distracting when you’re in a working groove. If you have a hard time conceptualizing how to organize your list, there are tons of printable templates in .doc or PDF. Just print ‘em out and fill ‘em in!

Bullet Journaling

Everybody’s talking about Bullet journaling. Read up on this new technique, described as “a customizable and forgiving organization system”—an all-in-one “to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary.” It helps you keep your lists manageable in size and keep items from overwhelming you while making sure more of them actually get done. So go to the website and see whether or not the Kool-Aid is right for you!

Breaking It Down

Set yourself one big goal for the day, then break it into actionable chunks. The smaller tasks will feel more manageable than the larger goal, and you’ll find you chip away at them quickly. Once you build momentum, you’ll be surprised at how fast you knock out your ultimate goal and consider that day a success.

Use Your Cloud

Use the cloud calendar function already on your laptop or your phone. They’ll merge effortlessly together so you can update from either device and have your to-do list with you at all times. And it can help you visualize how much time you have for each segment of your day. Try out the Google “Goals” feature along with this method for your long-term wish list of goals.

Prioritize Your Tasks

Check out Wunderlist, Todosit, or iDoneThis, or the thousands of apps like them, to sort your to-dos by priority level. You’ll also earn reward “points” for every task completed, which is just fun enough to make you feel really good about yourself. If you want a version with fewer bells and whistles, try which sorts your tasks into columns like “to do, to get, to call,” etc. Or TidyForms, which lets you schedule out two full days instead of one.

Do It For Cupcakes

No, honestly, that’s the name of the template. Design Eat Repeat created an adorable weekly organizing template called DO IT FOR THE CUPCAKES that lets you identify six goals per day. If you finish all your tasks in that week, you get cupcakes! Well, you’re strongly encouraged to get them.

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How To Handle Gossip About a Coworker

Gossip happens. And there is always someone in every office who just can’t help but spread it. And of course, it can be fun. But it can be equally hurtful—and can damage careers—not just the person’s being gossiped about.

How to take the high road? Here are a few useful strategies to keep your head above the fray.

1. Set the tone.

You need to be the grownup—especially if you’re a manager or supervisor and will be setting an example for your underlings. But really anyone can do this. If people start speculating wildly about company issues—or worse—gossiping about coworkers, bosses, and peers, you can be the first one to remove yourself and take a step back. This might just show them, by example, the error of their ways—without your having to say anything outright. Don’t let yourself be drawn in. If you can’t leave a conversation, try a subtle change of topic.

2. Be open to negativity.

People are more likely to gossip about you if you don’t seem open to hearing their concerns or workplace issues (in the case of being a supervisor) or if you don’t seem open to constructive criticism yourself. Be as transparent as possible when you’re in a position of power. And no matter what your job title, keep the lines of communication open.

3. Don’t punish the middleman.

If you’re a supervisor and one employee steps forward to address an issue or bring a problem to your attention, don’t punish that person for doing so. That person’s coworkers will likely see this as a sign of your being unapproachable and unfair. Cue: gossip.

4. Confront the source.

Sometimes it becomes necessary to confront the gossiper, even if the gossip is about you. Most gossipers continue their chattering because they believe there are no negative consequences. But if you let them know you’re on to what they’re up to—and let them know your feelings on the matter—chances are they might stop on their own. If you have to chastise them for their behavior, make your criticism about the issue, not them personally. Don’t just say: you gossiped! that is wrong! Try instead: I’m concerned about the gossip and I’m hoping we can put an end to it.

5. Don’t be self-righteous.

It’s all well and good to go high. It’s what you should be doing. But if you start to get really pompous or pious about your own good conduct in the face of rife and rampant gossip, you’re not going to make many allies. Stay casual when dealing with gossip, even when trying to be a good example. It’s not all about you, after all!

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Top 5 Best Pieces of Advice from Elon Musk

Elon Musk is a man of the future. Born in South Africa, he’s an inventor, entrepreneur, investor, and visionary—now a hugely successful businessman and leader. You’d hardly think to look at him that he was bullied in school, a product of divorce, and raised thousands of miles away from centers of global commerce.

His computer skills and interests, however, took him to college in Canada, and then towards the founding of a software company called Zip2 with his brother Kimbal. Musk used the profits from that sale to co-found, which, together with Confinity, would later become PayPal.

Since then, he’s founded SpaceX to advance rocket technology for future space travel. This company has only grown while NASA has been stymied with budget cuts. In 2008, he took over leadership of Tesla Motors, which is now a leading automotive innovator. He also is responsible for Solar City, in an effort to combat global warming by reducing emissions through solar energy innovation.

He’s worth over $12.5 billion and still isn’t done. Remember, this is the guy who taught himself to code in only three days. What can you learn from him for your own career inspiration?

1. Have a goal.

Don’t just make your goal to “make a lot of money” or “get promoted to X.” Have a goal that’s both compelling and meaningful. Figure out how to make things better, or to do something significant. If the company or product doesn’t exist yet, be on the forefront of making it real.

2. Seek criticism.

Don’t be delusional and think you and your ideas are infallible. Get as much feedback as you possibly can from people you trust. Make sure you keep examining yourself to make sure you truly believe in your ideals and aren’t just after some unrealistic dream for the wrong reasons. Be gracious when someone tells you to rethink one aspect of your plans.

3. Don’t spread yourself too thin.

Don’t try to run multiple empires or companies. Concentrate on doing one thing, or building one company at a time, and giving that project your all. On the other hand, you should be working harder and longer than everybody else. That’s how you get more done in less time, and how you get ahead.

4. Don’t fear failure.

Failure is a normal part of the innovation process. Make friends with this. If you think something is probably going to end up in failure, but it’s important enough to try, make sure you go for it. Failure is generative. Failure is a necessary component of innovation.

5. Choose to be extraordinary.

According to Musk, “people can choose to be ordinary.” Choose the opposite. Challenge and question norms. Do the unexpected. Strive always for greater goals and deeds.

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10 Unprofessional Habits That Could Get You Fired

We all have bad habits. And no single one will ever cost you your livelihood. But chances are we have other habits we might not be aware of, and there are some of these that could make you seem just unprofessional enough to cost you.

Take a look at this list of particularly glaring habits and make sure that if you have any, you don’t have many. And start trying to correct anything that could deem you unprofessional at work.

1. Procrastinating

We all do this to some extent or another. And it can actually increase productivity when done in a constructive way. But if you’re a chronic putter-offer, chances are your output and performance are slipping and you should probably think about getting more things done each day.

2. Lying

There is really no excuse for lying. Chances are you will get caught, and there is almost never an excuse good enough to justify this behavior. Never misrepresent yourself, your experience or credentials. Never take credit for anyone else’s work. Never fudge the numbers. And don’t call in sick unless you’re sick. Keep it clean and keep your job.

3. Tardiness

Whether you roll in 10 minutes late to every meeting or you’re just always a little late for the 9 a.m. clock-in, you’re showing your boss and coworkers that their time is less valuable than yours—all because you just had to spend that extra five minutes with your curling iron or to get your latte for your commute. Be on time and keep everyone sweet.

4. Grumbling

Nobody likes a negative coworker. If you’re complaining all the time, or you just have a consistently negative outlook toward almost everything, you’ll lose allies very quickly. Everyone gripes now and then. Just don’t make it a habit—or worse, a personality trait.

5. Slovenliness

Is hygiene not your top priority? Do you sometimes skip the shower or wear clothes past when they should have ended up in the wash? Don’t. Groom yourself. Practice good hygiene. Make sure you smell nice and look clean. And make sure your workspace reflects the same high standards. Nobody wants to work with a slob.

6. Swearing

Yeah, yeah, we know that the f word is basically the most common adjective of your generation. But try to refrain from cursing at work. To the wrong ears, it will always grate. And it does make you look quite unprofessional. Your boss might not want a potty mouth representing the company.

7. Personal Stuff

Remember that the office is a place of business. Don’t spend valuable time on personal calls or yammer on to your coworkers about relationship problems or health problems or your divorce. Keep that for happy hour with your friends. And don’t turn your workplace into a middle school lunchroom. Cliques are so eighth grade.

8. Stealing

No brainer, right? But this rule includes not raiding the supply closet or sneaking communal things or taking someone else’s fruit from the fridge. You can get fired for a lot less than outright embezzlement.

9. Bad Communication

If you can’t write a professional grown-up email and express yourself either out loud or on paper, then you’re not going to make it far in the working world. Strike a balance between monosyllabic and too verbose. Use proper punctuation and capitalization and grammar. Spell check. And be a good correspondent—thorough, professional, and punctual with your responses.

10. Bad Manners

You may think this is so 1950, but having good manners can get you pretty far in life—and having bad ones can occasionally cost you a job. When eating, chatting, working, etc. make sure your manners are up to snuff. Don’t interrupt people. Say “excuse me” or “pardon.” Don’t pry and don’t be rude.

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10 Traits That Will Kill Your Career

You know the basic rules: don’t lie or cheat or embezzle from the company. But there are a few character flaws and personal patterns or habits that could also seriously hinder your progress—and even kill your career.

Most people don’t even realize they’re doing themselves or their careers harm until it’s far too late. And most careers aren’t impacted by one big mistake or one cringeworthy comment. It happens little by little, in ways you might not expect. So keep an eye out for these subtle traits and traps that could already be bringing you down.

1. Narcissism

If you’re just thinking about yourself and how you can succeed, that’s self-absorption in the highest. You’ll go farther in your career if you consider how to help the company get ahead—and the company is made of people. It’s not all about you. Focus on being a better team player. In a rising tide, all boats rise.

2. Dishonesty

It doesn’t have to be one big whopper to count as lying. In fact, it’s often the smaller fibs around the edges that create a pattern making for a person a boss would likely write off as “dishonest.” Cultivate honesty as a virtue and a character trait. Be tactful, but not obsequious. Have the courage to accept responsibility when things are your fault. And keep your mouth shut—don’t spread rumors about your coworkers or friends.

3. Making False Promises

You either over-promise or under-deliver, but either way, you’re falling short of expectations and failing to do what you said you’d accomplish. Set reasonable, achievable goals for yourself. Make promises only that you’re certain you can keep. That way, if you get more done faster, you can give your boss a pleasant surprise instead of having to underperform.

4. Complacency

Otherwise known as: laziness. When was the last time you learned a new skill or took a refresher or other training course? When was the last time you certified yourself in something new? Or really dug into industry research to keep yourself on the cutting edge? If you don’t grow, you won’t be challenged and you won’t change. And you’ll never get ahead.

5. Pessimism

Nobody likes a Debbie Downer. If you find yourself focusing more on the negative side of everything, don’t be surprised when no one wants to work with you—and your boss doesn’t particularly want to see you succeed.

6. Apathy

Even worse than being negative or pessimistic is being apathetic. If you can’t bring yourself to care one way or the other, how can you expect anyone to trust you or want to work with you? Even if you hate your job, give it your best and move on. Otherwise you’ll be stuck, you’ll get a bad reputation, and you’ll never get ahead.

7. Fear of change

Keep your eye on the prize, the big picture. Weigh your daily and monthly priorities against your long-term goals. And don’t be afraid of changes in your company or industry. Learn to be adaptable. Roll with the tides. Don’t ever hear yourself saying, “But we’ve always done it this way.” Learn to grow and adapt as things progress—and keep your biggest dreams in the back of your mind at all times. Be flexible. Embrace the ever-changing nature of the working world.

8. Ego

You get a little success, it goes to your head, and all of a sudden you’re the star of every show. You’re arrogant. Full of yourself. Cocky. You’re doing nothing but setting yourself up for a rather painful failure.

9. Insecurity

Whether this manifests as meekness, arrogance, envy, pessimism, oversensitivity… it doesn’t matter. Do what you have to do to be more confident in your own abilities and career position. Go to therapy. This trait makes a negative impact across all areas of your life—not just your job. And it’s not a good enough excuse for the behavior it tends to cause.

10. Sucking up

Nobody likes a brown-noser. You’re not showing real respect or building a relationship; you’re a big phony going about things the underhanded way. Earn your boss’s respect the honest way. Prove your merit. Help your team. Show don’t tell.

Once you’ve got all of this down, the next step is to make sure you don’t let any of your biases impact your decisions. In order to effectively develop your career, it’s important to admit you have biases and learn to correct them. The more objective you are, the better your decisions will be.

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How To Save Your Job When You’re About To Get Fired

Your performance review wasn’t good. Or maybe you just smell the blood in the water. You’ve got a bad feeling that you—or even your job—is on the chopping block. Rather than just hang your head, admit defeat, and start your job search anew, why not try a few of the following steps to save your job? At least then you can say you gave it your best shot.

1. Stop slacking.

If you’ve built a reputation for being lazy, it’s never too late to turn it all around. It will be hard to shake off, but with a bit of work, not impossible! Figure out why you haven’t been giving it your all at work. Eliminate your biggest distractions, like your phone or social media accounts or even particularly chatty coworkers. Identify the projects that you can drum up passion for and then devote yourself to getting stuff done and start delivering real results.

2. Take responsibility.

Did you miss a deadline? Fail to deliver an important project? You can’t go back in time and undo this, but you can assume full accountability for what happened. Don’t blame anyone but yourself and see how you can fix the problem. Then fix it—fast.

3. Handle disgruntled clients.

You said something to a client and now they’re threatening to walk. Figure out—by asking coworkers and team members what went wrong and whether you were inappropriate or out of line—then figure out if the situation is fixable. If you weren’t at fault, approach your boss with the full picture. Be honest and provided you didn’t do anything outrageous, your boss should back you up.

4. Stop gossiping.

You’ve been outed as an office gossip—whether for a one time whopper offense, or a routine habit. You’ve probably got a very narrow window to prove yourself worthy of keeping on. Let your boss know you understand the severity of your behavior and the consequences and insist upon turning over a new leaf. Apologize to any injured parties and behave yourself more professionally in future.

5. Have a heart to heart.

It’s not out of line to have a sit-down with your boss and have an honest conversation—especially if you two have been out of touch or out of sync. Ask about the communication lapse. Ask whether there is anything you’re not doing or delivering that you could focus on improving. Reiterate your passion and commitment to the position and make it clear you’ll do whatever it takes to stay on board.

6. Make a performance improvement plan.

Say your performance has been lackluster, and your boss confirms that you’re not in the best of standing. Sit down and come up with a plan with clear indicators of renewed success. Then set about systematically meeting every goal on your plan tick by tick. Get yourself out of your slump as soon as you can. It will be much easier with clear guidelines. And don’t be afraid to ask for coaching and/or feedback.

7. Go the extra mile.

With everything. Make yourself an expert in a new software. Make a positive and lasting contribution—the bigger the better. Have a stellar attitude at all times. Help out your team and coworkers. Anticipate your boss’s needs. Show your value to the company and your strengths as a team player and you’ll be in much better shape.

The crucial thing is to make sure you’re taking steps to bulk up your career and making changes—and lasting ones. Slapping a temporary band-aid on the situation will not save your job. Overhauling your work ethic and performance, however, just might do the trick!


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