One unanticipated benefit of being in the business world for 20+ years is that I’ve been able to witness a marvelous array of astonishingly stupid human tricks, all performed in a seeming quest for immediate self destruction. If you sat around each night trying to identify clever stunts which would enable you to damage your career, you couldn’t do much better than the following real-world examples.  If you’re someone who’s trying to “get ahead” on the job, don’t do this at work:

1. Send an innuendo filled, sex-talk-laden email to your girl/boyfriend from your work email account, and somehow cleverly manage to cc the entire company address book. This will make you a star for years, if not decades, at your place of employment. On the downside, it will also enable you to permanently brand yourself a complete dolt. If you’re going to be sending “colorful” emails to anyone, do it from your personal email account. By the way, you may have signed a policy specifying that the company’s email system is to be used for work only.

2. The first time you and your wife/husband/S.O. attend a company function at your new employer, please be certain you both get falling-down drunk. This will impress everyone, and instantly establish you as someone with little sense and less self control. We had someone do this about a year and a half ago (company Christmas party) and I hear he is doing well at his new firm. (He had other issues for sure, but this was a smashing (ha. pun intended) way to impress all his new coworkers.)

3. If you’re at a loss for how to mess up your standing in the company, do this:  piss off a) the boss’s/President’s administrative assistant, and/or b) the HR guy/gal.  Why bother annoying lowly peers and subordinates? Aim higher! To really screw yourself, make sure the HR person thinks you’re a jerk. To seal the deal, call the President’s admin a bitch. I’ve seen people do these things, and as it turns out, they are not helpful to your career.

4. If you’re feeling burned out and are becoming a bit turned off by the company, your job, or the work environment, please do not start copying and pasting Dilbert cartoons into your emails. I agree that Dilbert is hysterical – particularly Catbert the evil HR Director, but someone – your boss, her boss, the President – will, upon seeing your handiwork, begin thinking that you’re a great fit for the position that opened up at the Minot, South Dakota branch. Keep your angst to yourself and start networking and seeking a new job if you’re truly unhappy.

5. OK, do I have to write this? Porn. Do not look at it, forward it, or print it on a company printer. Here’s a news flash that someone I once worked with didn’t quite get: uh, printers occasionally jam. You will not enjoy clearing your “porno paper jam” if an audience happens to gather as you do so. Your fascination with Jenna Jameson is swell (ha) and all, but you probably should restrict your relationship with Jenna to non-working hours.

6. I understand people fall in love at work; I get it. But if you are married and you and your new true love over in the Accounting Dept. are surreptitiously seeing one another, I have news for you:  everyone knows. You may fancy yourself a regular Jason Bourne or James Bond, but trust me, they know. Try to straighten out your entanglements before you do much damage to both your careers.

7. OK, it pains me to admit this, particularly given the title of this post, but – full disclosure:  I did this. I do not recommend doing this. I did survive. DO NOT, while attempting to tease one of your nearby coworkers by pretending to complain to the President about him or her, inadvertently get on the building’s public address system.

The beauty part of this story: I was teasing someone about being upset about a policy change, he heard me, we had a laugh, end of story, right?  Not quite…

About a week after this particular stunt I was speaking with a friend and he mentioned in passing that a mutual friend had heard “the strangest thing on the P.A. system last week.” “Really,” I asked, “what was that?” “Some guy going on and on about John D– and how he should be fired, he’s a cancer in the organization…”  I nearly fainted. I had somehow punched “88” on my phone and was broadcasting my over the top rendition of sucking up to the boss and trashing a coworker to the entire building. When I do it, I do it well. I went on to do very well at the firm and the story went nowhere…  but it may have been the last practical joke I played on anyone at work.

8. If you can turn off the Auto Complete address feature on your email, do so. I’ve seen people send confidential pricing to the wrong account, inappropriate emails to the wrong people, and worse. If you can’t turn off Auto Complete and are using Outlook, set up a Rule that delays delivery by 4-5 minutes to give yourself a fighting chance at catching an email before it goes to an unintended recipient.

With downsizing, benefit cuts and the current economic environment, work is tough enough already. Don’t make your life at work any more difficult – or your chances for advancement any slimmer – by doing any of the things described here. And whatever you do, if you don’t already know it, find out what the code is to get on your firm’s P.A. system! ;-) Have a great day!

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2 Comments on 8 stupefyingly stupid real life career limiting moves: don’t do this at work!

  1. Trixen says:

    It’s Minot, North Dakota-not South Dakota in number 4.


    Kevin Reply:


    Ouch. Shame on me. I’ve actually been to Minot and should have remembered it’s in ND. Thanks for setting me straight!


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