I was a professional singer for 20 years, standing on stages across the country performing songs. That is a long time, and more than enough to make my share of goofs. At one concert in a North Georgia church, I called on a young girl in the audience, only to discover that I was in fact talking to a little boy. I was mortified. People told me later that they had made the same mistake with this young man, to which I responded that they didn’t do it while lit up and amplified onstage. All I wanted to do for the rest of my set was crawl off under a rock somewhere and die of embarrassment.
Now granted, you may not stand onstage in front of thousands of people, but you can still make mistakes on your job that can have far reaching consequences, even up to the actual loss of your job. With the job market currently ranking as one of the most depressing areas of modern society, it is in all of our best interests to do all we can to hold onto the jobs we have.
So consider some of the most common mistakes that other people have made. Learning from them may benefit you and your career.
Spell the name right. A person’s name is important to them. It is not only proper to remember their name and call them by the right one (I remember a radio job where one of the other announcers referred to me as “guy” for the whole time I was there), but you should also remember to spell their name correctly in all interoffice memos or e-mail correspondence. Learn names and memorize them as soon as possible, particularly with supervisors. You never want to have to ask more than once.
Resist the urge to comment on the family photos. I was had someone mistake my daughter for my wife, and while it is funny, it does make for some of the more awkward moments. Even comments like “You looked great back then” may misfire and have less than desirable results.
Do not ask about pregnancy. I don’t care if she looks like she’s eight months gone with a Sherman tank; refrain from bringing the subject up until she does. Commenting on a pregnancy where none exists leaves you with all kinds of egg on your face, and no dignified way to wipe it off. Worse, if you are conducting and interview and commit this particular screw up, the discrimination lawsuit awaiting you is a doozy.
Leave the unseen spouse unseen. Again, this may open the door to several different less than comfortable answers.
Refer to the boss in the right way. When discussing him or her with other people, make sure the reference is prefaced by the words “my supervisor” or “my boss”. Those qualifications establish the proper hierarchy for clients who may not know exactly who you are referring to.
Re-record your voice mail as needed. Nothing makes you look incompetent or disorganized as having a recording saying “I’m out of the office and will be back on May 5th” still greeting callers on August 18th. Keep such recordings updated.
Correcting the boss. This is a huge no-no, as it will not exactly endear you to your supervisor, especially if you do it in the presence of other subordinates. If you feel you must absolutely correct your boss, arrange for a one on one meeting to do so. If he holds his ground, then be supportive.
Fostering a spirit of disunity. Nobody likes a boat rocker. If you have disagreements with another worker or with the company, resolve them privately. Airing your gripes publicly only sours the overall espirit de corps of the business and will not garner you points with the higher ups.
Stealing credit. It is always nice to be credited with a solution or idea, but sometimes, the credit will be given to the wrong person. Fight down the temptation to stand up and claim what is yours. It is amazing how much can be accomplished when it doesn’t matter who gets the credit, so learn to let it go.
So go in, put your best foot forward, and make yourself indispensible to your employer. It is hard enough to get a job these days, so put forth the effort it takes to make sure you keep the one you have.