Five easy ways to commit career suicide

We are all capable of making mistakes that can send us straight to the career doghouse. Here are five big no-nos to watch out for.

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For one thing, if word gets to your boss that you're bad-mouthing your co-workers to the customers, you could be in big trouble. CIO Denny Brown of electric utility provider Arizona Public Service makes no bones about it: Such behaviour constitutes insubordination, and therefore is "grounds for termination," he says.

It's a much better idea to maintain a united company front when dealing with the customer. Resolve the issue with your IT colleague privately.

Contradicting the boss in public

Suppose that your boss, while giving a presentation, makes a factual error. Should you jump in and correct the error immediately, secure in the knowledge that your boss will thank you for underlining the mistake in front of an entire room of people?

Um ... no.

Correcting your boss in public will hardly endear you to him. More likely, he will be upset at being made to look foolish, and may even wonder why you didn't catch the error yourself prior to the presentation.

When may one safely contradict the boss in public? I can think of only two instances:

First, if the building is on fire and your boss is pointing people to the wrong exit, you probably can speak up with few repercussions.

Second, if the boss makes a mistake about making a mistake, you can speak up -- the louder, the better. So, if your boss identifies the correct vendor for your off-site backup, then mistakenly says, "Sorry, that was wrong," you absolutely may say, "No boss, you were right to begin with." You don't get these chances very often, so take advantage of them.

Otherwise, exercise extreme discretion when your boss misspeaks in public. If the matter is truly important (for example, the CIO gives the wrong date for your SAP go-live), approach him during a break and quietly mention the mistake. A smart and gracious CIO, upon resumption of the session, will identify the error, apologise and credit you with the correction.

If a break isn't forthcoming soon, try to catch your boss' eye and talk privately. But you really don't want to shout out the correction in front of the whole group.

Committing social blunders at a company event

Staff misbehaviour at office parties has been a cliché since the 1950s, but that doesn't mean people still don't make fools of themselves. Don Michalak, co-author of Making the Training Process Work and a consultant for companies such as Ford, KPMG and Marsh & McLennan, stresses that such functions are not purely social events. "Don't do anything you wouldn't do at the office or at a client's office," he says.

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