These On-the-Job Etiquette Breaches Can Derail Your Career

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- What are the most common ways to breach workplace etiquette and curb your career growth, if not derail it altogether?

Employers and staffers don't always see the answers to that question the same way, according to a recent survey by Accountemps (RHI). But bosses certainly have more leverage to decide what matters, since they can fire employees who buck their rules, and a company finds U.S. chief financial officers are most often bugged by workers "being distracted" on the job (27% of CFOs say so) and "gossiping about colleagues" (18%).

Other top offenses cited by CFOs:

  • Not responding to calls or emails.
  • Being late to meetings, or missing them.
  • Not crediting other staffers when appropriate.

Upper management and workers actually agree on professional decorum more than they disagree, and the shared message is easy to sum up: "Most jobs today require teamwork and strong collaboration skills, and that means following the unwritten rules of office protocol," says Bill Driscoll, a district president of Accountemps. "Poor workplace etiquette demonstrates a lack of consideration for coworkers."

Of course, the list of potential professional breaches far exceeds the Accountemps list.

"I've seen it all," says Nicole Williams, a workplace consultant and contributor to NBC's The Today Show. "Employees who lie on expense reports; who badmouth the company or boss on social media or to clients; proofreading mistakes; missing deadlines. Just to name a few."

If you do trip up on the job, it's best to take responsibility. "If you really screw up, you have to suffer the consequences in silence," Williams says. "Don't protest, don't try and get out of it, and don't put the blame on someone or something else. People will respect you more for owning your mistakes."

If you've offended someone on a personal level, go to the person you wronged, Williams says. Otherwise, head straight to your boss. "Focus on fixing the situation and be brief as possible," she says. "But if your boss wants a play-by-play, rehearse what you'll be saying beforehand. Remind your boss you are a loyal employee and this is a one-off situation. Explain everything, hide nothing, and make sure to provide solutions."

Accountemps advises keeping your nose to the grindstone, sharing workplace praise, and never, ever participating in office gossip. In the spirit of the old Woody Allen quote that "80% of success is showing up," always be on time for meetings, and stay focused and distraction-free for the duration of that meeting.

If you don't take control of your etiquette snafus, they could turn around and take control of you, reducing your standing in the workplace.

"I once dealt with a sales manager who had their own corporate credit card," says Bill Fish, the founder of Cincinnati-based ReputationManagement.com. "We didn't look at it all too closely, but peeked in every so often to find a $700 charge to a salon, $600 at Verizon, and three meals over $500 all in the same day while at a conference."

"What was worse was that none of the staff saw the manager at the conference for even a minute on the day in question," Fish says.

That employee managed to stay on the job, but the damage was done.

"Needless to say, the respect diminished from that point forward," Fish says.

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