Thought you left the world of cliques and whispers behind at school? You poor, naïve creature. The modern workplace can be a treacherous landscape, riddled with social pitfalls; sometimes, it’s hard to know what’s fine and what’s not.

Here are six essential rules that you should always keep in mind.

1. Discrimination is never okay

Apart from being utterly unacceptable in the modern world, racism, sexism and homophobia are unwelcome guests in the workplace. Voice such opinions and you are bound to make enemies, as well as demonstrate your social ignorance.

Why? These kinds of attitudes are not only out-dated but factually wrong. Racially diverse teams make better decisions, demonstrate improved consumer understanding and benefit from a larger skillset. Gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform their less progressive equivalents, and companies with women in the boardroom boast better returns as well as stock market performance. And why on earth should your sexual preference affect your professional capabilities?

Locker-room talk à la Donald Trump is not acceptable. Whether you’re a man or a woman, black or white, don’t be the backward hick of your workplace.

2. Promotions are based on more than performance

The more naïve among us might think that the office operates a pure meritocracy. But the truth is less clear-cut. According to research from Career Builder, the people who get promoted not only perform best in company tasks but also show a positive outlook, take fewer sick days and refrain from vulgar language.

Remember: whatever you achieve from the comfort of your desk, it means nothing if you’re perceived to be negative about your work. Demonstrate passion for all aspects of the office environment – that difficult colleague included. 


Group having a meeting

3. Managers should set the right example

We’ve all known that boss who makes us work through lunch, then leaves work three hours early. Frequently, people in positions of power abuse this privilege, establishing one rule for their juniors and another for themselves. It’s deceptive, unfair and fosters resentment among your workforce.

Most importantly, not setting a good example compromises your own standing within the company. How can you expect your employees to respect you if they see you as a hypocrite? Avoid the ire of your underlings by setting the right example.

4. Shut up and put up – to a point

Nobody likes a tell-tale. Sure, that sexist comment your CEO made last week riled you. But pointing out his failures to him is more likely to get you in the doghouse than him on the road to enlightenment.

Sadly, people will always make inappropriate comments, hurtful jokes or errors of judgment – it’s a fact of life, in the workplace as much as anywhere else. Surveys show that 62% of employees in regular large companies have witnessed some form of workplace misconduct.

If you have an ally in senior management, you must talk to them about any observed issues of medium or greater seriousness. However, kicking up a fuss over small injuries is likely to do you more damage than your offender.

5. Meeting? Put the phone away

Ever been in a meeting or at dinner with someone, only to find them talking to their phone more than to you? Mobiles and social interactions are long-time enemies – and nowhere more so than in the company boardroom.

Accord to a study from Niigata University, the very action of checking your phone is rude, communicating that your attention is elsewhere and that you are putting your present company on ‘hold’. What’s more, research from Florida State University shows that a single text message can cause an immediate drop in productivity.

If you are in a meeting – or even just talking to someone – resist the urge to check your phone. Ensure that it’s placed somewhere out of the way, then ignore.

6. Get out gracefully

We get it: you hated your job. You’re quitting because you were unhappy, disliked your boss, felt underappreciated, yadda yadda yadda. Don’t tell them.

If you are leaving your present company due to dissatisfaction, do not on any account say so. Lie through your teeth if you have to; nobody wants to hear about their shortcomings, let alone from an employee currently in the process of leaving them. Quitting causes enough of a headache for your employer that anything on top of it will be perceived as needless negativity.

Know the rules. Hand in your notice with a smile, emphasising how valuable you’ve found your time with the company. Obey the terms of your contract and avoid surprise resignations if possible.

Finally, tempting though it may be to give your manager an earful two days before your last day, your reputation could suffer. At this point, it’s just not worth it; be the bigger person and get out gracefully.

Inspiring Interns is a graduate recruitment agency which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships and giving out graduate careers advice. To hire graduates or browse graduate jobs London, visit their website.


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