Don’t Work Too Hard: Seven Secret Sins at Work


Ciaran Griffin/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — While some career killers are clear and follow common sense, the workplace can be rife with hidden dos and don’ts.

“There are lots of different ways to get fired, and sometimes you’ll never know what you did wrong,” said Cynthia Shapiro, a former human resources executive and the author of Corporate Confidential.

What’s more, these secret no-nos can be behaviors people think are good, morally and professionally.

Below is a list of potential secret sins. 

Being Popular

“Being popular can erode your job security very quickly,” Shapiro said.  “It leads to sharing too much personal information at work.  I have sat in meetings where the CEO or the higher executives said, ‘I heard this person is going through a nasty divorce; let’s not promote them.’ … Friendships need to be very strategically crafted.”

Bringing Yummy Treats for Colleagues

“This is particularly a mistake for women,” said Dr. Lois Frankel, author of Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office.  To be taken seriously, she said, leave the baking to Betty Crocker.

“It’s a nice thing to do,” Frankel said.  “[But] if you do it too much, you’ll just be seen as the mascot, or the department mom, and you don’t want that.”


Studies show that dividing your attention between tasks can decrease efficiency and accuracy, Shapiro said.

“Companies say multitasking is what they want.  It’s not really what they want.  What they really want you to do is focus in with laserbeam focus on one thing and then switch to another and switch to another and switch to another,” Shapiro said.

Talking to HR

Even though your company may say it’s best to take your troubles to HR, that can hurt you, Shapiro said. “They don’t work for you; they work for the company.  The company cuts their paycheck,” Shapiro said.

Most people assume that what they tell HR is confidential.   “All that means is, they are not gonna blab it to the other employees.  But they will absolutely tell your boss,” Shapiro said.


“Companies will say, ‘Here is your space’ … do whatever you want with it,” Shapiro said.  “It’s kind of an unconscious test of loyalty and values, because if you fill it with troll dolls or crystals or religious things, it’s gonna make them feel really, really uncomfortable.”

And don’t go crazy with family photos. “It’s telling the employer that this person would rather be at home with their kids,” Shapiro said.  “One professional shot, and that’s it.”

Bringing Kids to Work

“It’s really not a good idea unless you can guarantee that your kids will be absolute angels,” Shapiro said.  “If your kid decides to have a temper tantrum, it will reflect on you.  ‘If he can’t control a child, how’s he going to manage the company?’  That kind of thing.”

Working Too Hard

Believe it or not, burning the midnight oil can backfire.  Research shows over-working can decrease performance because it deprives you of sleep.  Most bosses don’t care how long you work — just how much you get done.

“Working 24/7, where you’re always accessible, where you just kind of seem harried because there’s always so much to do — you’re not seen as someone who manages their time well,” Frankel said.

Watch the full story on 20/20: Work War: How to Win It, How to Wage It Friday night at 10 ET.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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