I think I speak for most people when I say that work is called "work" for a reason. It's not exactly the most fun thing in the world. I'm fortunate enough to actually have a career that I love with fabulous co-workers, but I have paid my dues in terms of crappy jobs and workplace drama. Even if you're not in jeopardy of losing your employment anytime soon, there are still quite a few surprising things you should never do at work, according to HR reps, that you may do on the daily.
Initially, I figured some of the experts I spoke with to cover the basics — like theft, harassment, and anything considered generally illegal are obviously discouraged in the workplace. But interestingly enough, there were quite a few unexpected things to pop up during the interviews. So if you've ever gotten a pink slip or write up and had no clue why, maybe you unknowingly committed a workplace sin. And, yes, I consider eating someone else's lunch to be considered the worst sin of all. So check out these surprising things you didn't realize you should never do at work, and see if any of them sound familiar.
1. Talk Politics
Though it's totally fine to be passionate about politics, it's best to leave that out of the workplace. "People have to remember that work is a melting pot, not just of cultures and religions, but of political views," Michael Nieman, who works for a Biotech company, tells Romper. Even if you're friends on social media with your co-workers and are pretty sure about their political beliefs, it's not worth risking your job.
2. Make Assumptions
You'd be surprised how fast info can spread at work. That's why George Moore, who has experience in HR and customer service, tells Romper that they, "wish more people knew that you never know who is listening." Whether it's a phone call you think no can hear or juicy gossip, you should always act as if your boss is in the room.
3. Ask About Religion
Though you might think you're being thoughtful or considerate, inquiring about someone's religious beliefs (or lack thereof) isn't a good idea. William Mims, a lawyer who handled HR issues, tells Romper that religion is right up there with politics. To play it safe, he recommends waiting until the other person or party has made it abundantly clear that they are comfortable discussing their beliefs. Even then, tread lightly.
4. Use Salty Language
Again, no matter how well you think you know someone or if you think no one else is listening, it's never a good idea to curse. Moore says that, even if it had been clearly noted as "not tolerated,” cursing was one of the most common offenses reported to HR. Play it safe and use PG-rated language.
5. Show Up Late
I was surprised to find out that being absent falls under the umbrella of HR. Trista VanAmburg, who has experience as an office administrator, says, "the most common offenses have been attendance issues [and] not meeting job expectations." Basically, if you aren't meeting the standards of your job description, you could be headed to the HR department.
6. Surf The Web
As Nieman points out, this could be a new problem facing the workplace since technology is more prevalent than it's ever been. "So many people, usually millennials, seem to have a window open all day almost like a TV screen," says Nieman. So what's the big deal? Nieman explains that, "the problem with this one is that your peers and managers instantly have something to point to if you’re late on your deadlines." So don't give your boss any reason to dismiss you just because you really wanted to watch a viral video.
7. Treat Work Like Tindr
OK, maybe that's a little harsh, but it's a flirting in the office is risky. In fact, it's one of the things that is the hardest to deal with, in Nieman's opinion. "People meet and get into relationships at work all the time. But, if the other person has said 'No' once and you’ve still been asking, you’re likely going to get reported to HR." So it may not be a hard and fast rule, but it's definitely something that you may not even realize could get you in trouble.
8. See HR As The Enemy
Work is a lot like high school in the way that gossip travels quickly. So if you've expressed your dislike for the HR department, chances are they know about it. Though that won't necessarily get you in trouble, it could make for a tense or awkward environment. As Nieman tells Romper, "HR is mostly payroll and benefits management — not there to police people." Save yourself the hassle of sharing an uncomfortable elevator ride with someone from HR, and remember that everyone is just trying to do their job.
9. Use Adult Humor
Sure, everyone has made the occasional naughty joke from time to time, but it certainly shouldn't become a habit. VanAmburg tells Romper that most common offense was, "the inappropriate behavior reported was that jokes of a sexual manner were made around female staff." Though gender isn't necessarily a factor, sexual or adult humor is best reserved for conversations with friends not during business hours.
10. Treat Work Like Home
It's one thing to personalize your area with cute decor or display pictures of your friends and family, but getting too comfortable is a no-no. According to Moore, employees who treated work — especially common areas — like their home got reported for making others feel uncomfortable. I kid you not when I say some examples include, "clipping their nails." People, leave personal hygiene at home.
11. Wait To Report Something
Both VanAmburg and Nieman echoed this sentiment in their interviews. Waiting to report an offense, no matter how trivial you might think it is, could have a negative effect on others. For instance, VanAmburg says, "I wish more people felt comfortable talking to HR and trusting that things do remain confidential." Nieman gives Romper an example of a woman hesitating to report a man who had a hard time taking no for an answer. Nieman shares:
She didn’t tell anyone about it even though it bothered her. One day she reached out to another single female coworker who said, "Oh my gosh, he’s been doing the same thing with me" This caused them to reach out to other female co-workers only to find out that he had hit up almost every single girl in the office for a date.
So what's the moral of this story? "Any time someone at work makes you uncomfortable, they’re usually doing it to other people too. Don’t gossip; just tell HR," Nieman explains. When in doubt, go to HR.