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Avoiding the Top Ten Mistakes at Work

written by: Brenda Barrett•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 4/17/2012

Everyone makes mistakes; however, some mistakes are worse than others, especially in the workplace. Below are the top ten mistakes made at work.

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    1. Insubordination

    Insubordination is the act of willfully disobeying a lawful order from someone who is of a higher rank than you are. Some dictionaries declare that as a state of not being submissive to authority. This is one of the most severe mistakes made at work because some companies have a low tolerance level for disobedient employees. This mistake may cost you your job instantly and is embedded in most employee contracts as instant grounds for dismissal.

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    2. Sexual Relationship with Colleagues or Supervisor

    Another one of the top ten mistakes made at work is having a sexual relationship with a colleague or supervisor. This is a bad idea and is rarely resolved amicably if the relationship ends acrimoniously. It creates tension at work, shatters harmonious working relationships when employees take sides, and fosters jealousy, especially if there are promotions or demotions. It’s just generally a bad idea all around and a huge mistake.

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    3. Frequent Absenteeism

    Frequent absenteeism is a huge mistake; it will cost you the job. Employers will conclude you do not value the job as you ought and will find a replacement if you are frequently absent.

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    4. Frequent Tardiness

    This is a terrible mistake to make at work. Most companies frown on latecomers or employees who take extended lunch breaks. It is quite annoying when employees are late. This is usually a key issue on most performance appraisals and speaks to your dedication to the job.

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    5. Gossip

    Do not make the mistake of being the company gossip or town crier. Whilst you may have many ‘friends’ who are eager to hear the latest scoop on company affairs, these same persons will give you a thumbs-down on the issue of trust. You may be passed over for any promotions or advancement in the company because you have an untrustworthy reputation or you've become known as the person most likely to blab.

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    6. Cultural Differences

    Be informed about different cultures and their lifestyles or idiosyncrasies, especially if you work for a multi-national cooperation or with people from a cross-section of cultures. There is nothing more embarrassing than committing a cultural faux pas in the boardroom or on the telephone, especially with managers of various nationalities. Another consideration is to curb your jokes or humor around persons of various ethnicities, especially if the jokes relate to someone's country of origin or culture. Until you know people better, it is wise to tread softly.

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    7. Religion and Politics

    Discussing religion and politics at work is a big mistake; it can make your co-workers uncomfortable and can color their perceptions toward you. Religion and politics are hot button issues: They are topics that generate strong, passionate responses, and they can lead to animosity and hostility.

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    8. Harassment

    Do not make the mistake of harassing anyone at work. Not only will you lose your job but the harassment can result in legal action being taken against you. There are policies and guidelines about harassment, including sexual harassment, that are included in every company manual. If they are not present in yours, check out the International Labour Organization ( for guidelines.

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    9. Taking Company Resources for Personal Use

    For some persons this is a habit and not merely a mistake. Routinely using company resources for personal use--like the internet, telephone, photocopiers, printers, toiletries, pens, pencils, laptops, or cars--is illegal and is considered to be stealing. Unless otherwise stated by your company, your use of company property should be kept separately from your personal activities.

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    10. Sharing Personal Issues

    You spend a lot of time with the persons you work with and they may become your friends. Be extremely careful with the sharing of your personal life. Many persons make the mistake of sharing confidences and little bits of information, and it somehow finds its way into the company grapevine. Depending on the nature of the information it can cost you your job, prospective promotions, or transfers. Likewise, do not use the company computer to store personal details such as pictures or videos.

    To avoid these top ten mistakes made at work, read your company manual carefully and think carefully before you act.