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5 Workplace Traps to Avoid

A positive attitude and professional conduct can play a large part in a successful career. But if you’re feeling down about your job and stalled on your career path, it could be because you’ve stepped into a workplace trap.

These traps occur when your actions and attitudes make you, your co-workers, and your supervisor uncomfortable.

Learn to recognize these 5 workplace traps and how to avoid them:

1. Complaining

No workplace ever runs smoothly, but complaining won’t solve the problems. In fact, it often makes a bad situation worse. It lowers morale, wastes energy, and labels you as a negative person, which can hurt your career.

Avoid this trap:
Do what you can to change the situation. If that’s not possible, accept it and move on. If you can’t accept it, it’s time to look for a different job or ask for a transfer. 

2. Gossip

Gossip reduces productivity—if you’re gossiping, you’re not working. It creates mistrust and suspicion, leads to comparisons among co-workers, and makes for an unpleasant workplace.

Avoid this trap:
When a co-worker starts gossiping, choose one of the following responses:

  • Leave the conversation. Say: "I’ve got to run," or "Got to make a call."
  • Change the subject. Say: "How was your weekend?"
  • Steer the conversation in a more useful direction. Say: "We can’t do much about that. What can we do to make things better around here?" 

3. Inappropriate online activities

You probably have online access, including an email account, at work. More workplaces also allow you to access social networking websites. Many employers can and do keep track of their employees’ internet use.

Avoid this trap:
Make sure that the searches, posts, and social networking you do during work hours and on workplace computers are related to your job. Check with your supervisor if you can access your personal email or social networks during your breaks. Never visit a website that you wouldn’t want your supervisor to know about. Never email or post any content that you wouldn’t want to see, with your name on it, on an office bulletin board.

4. Comparisons

Comparing yourself to other team members creates anxiety and unhappiness. It won’t help to dwell on how much better they’re treated, how much more they make, or how much more attention they get. In fact, it wastes your time, destroys your morale, increases your frustration, and keeps you from taking positive action.

Avoid this trap:
When you’re tempted to compare your situation with a co-worker’s, ask yourself if there’s anything you can do to change things:

  • If the answer is yes, make a plan and take positive action. For example, improve your skills, volunteer for a project, or increase your workload. In other words, make sure your supervisor notices you for all the right reasons.
  • If the answer is no, accept your situation and try to let go of negative feelings. Instead, for example, write down your short- and long-term goals and begin working towards them.

5. Worrying about things beyond your control

Office politics, confusing workplace policies, and complex bureaucracies can be work life realities. If you worry about big-picture issues that don’t directly affect you, you may have difficulty focusing.

Avoid this trap:
Determine if the workplace issue you’re worried about is central to the work you do. If it is and you can’t change the situation, accept it and do the best you can or start looking for a different job.

Avoiding these workplace traps will help you change either the situation or your response to it, increasing your satisfaction and effectiveness at work.

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