10 Preventable Mistakes to Avoid Losing your Job

Written by Kyle Reddoch

Have you ever wanted to disappear after committing some stupid faux pas? If it occurs in a professional context, it could be more than embarrassing – it could cost your business or hurt your career. You want visibility in your career. However, that visibility should be a positive one. The last thing you need is a gaffe – that is, doing something (mentioned in the meaning above) that would put you in the negative spotlight. Here are 10 things to beware of:

1. Misspelling someone’s name

A person’s name is one of the most important possessions – so make sure to spell it right. Nothing indicates a lack a professionalism more than misspelling a person’s name. When in doubt, ask. Most people won’t find your question annoying. In fact, they’ll be honored that you thought spelling their name was important enough to check directly.

A misspelling need not involve only a personal name, either. It might be a key term used in your organization, profession, or industry. A company’s name is also among these.

2. Mispronouncing a name

The same logic regarding spelling applies to pronunciation. As before, simple as the person directly. If you have to, make up a phonetic representation of the name and practice it with the person. Again, people won’t mind your taking up their time this way; they’ll be flattered that you care about saying their name correctly (as long as they don’t have to have the same conversation with you more that once).

3. Commenting on a personal/family photo

I once a man and a women, thought they were brother and sister, I managed to keep my mouth shut. They turned out to be father and daughter.

The mistake I avoided, however, can occur with photographs as well. If you see a personal or family photo on a person’s desk, avoid commenting on relationships. That young boy you though was a grandson could possibly just be a son. Similarly, if you know the photo is an earlier one of the person you’re meeting with, avoid comments like “You looked great back then.”

4. Asking about pregnancy

No matter how much the women looks like she’s showing, keep your mouth shut until she actually brings the subject up. If you ask, and the answer is “no”, you will have no graceful retreat. If you’re conducting an interview, you have also opened the door wide open to a discrimination lawsuit.

5. Asking about unseen/absent spouse

Suppose last year you were at a company get together and saw your co-worker and their spouse. This year, you only see the co-worker. As with the pregnancy situation, keep our mouth shut. Don’t be in the position; asking about the spouse only to be told. “We’re divorced.”

6. Referring improperly to your boss

The same errors in determining family relationships can apply to office ones also. If you’re planning to be away and want to refer callers to our boss, that’s perfectly fine. However, make sure that your boss is okay with these referrals. More important, make sure your voicemail greeting or e-mail auto-reply makes the relationship clear. Don’t just say. “If you have any questions, please contact Kyle Reddoch at (phone number or e-mail address).” Say instead, “…please contact my supervisor/boss, Kyle Reddoch…”

7. Failing to reset your voicemail or e-mail auto-reply

When you return from time away from work, undo any absence greeting or auto-replies you’ve setup. Few things make you look dumber than having a greeting that references your return to work date from three months ago. If you think you’re going to forget, try placing a note on your phone or computer monitor.

8. Leaving a departed employee in voicemail / or on the Web

Once an employee leaves your company, remove that person from voicemail and any online directories that you may have. Leaving a person in place can make the company look foolish. Also, you might create the opportunity for an unaware caller to still leave a message for that departed employee, leaving the message to get missed.

9. Correcting the boss

Correcting your boss will rarely endear you to that person. If he or she made a mistake, try to correct it in as low-profile a way as possible. Perhaps you can talk to your boss during a break? However, you may (and should) publicly correct the boss when the boss in wrong about being wrong. In that limited circumstance, public correction is okay.

10. Displaying disunity in public

If you have disagreements with another person or department, resolve them privately. Don’t air dirty laundry to outsiders. Doing so makes your whole organization look bad.

Kyle Reddoch is the Owner of The Everyday Web Expert, a full service web design firm located in Amarillo, TX. He is also a featured writer on many blogs. He loves every minute of his life with his wonderful wife and two kids at their home in Amarillo.

8 thoughts on “10 Preventable Mistakes to Avoid Losing your Job

  1. corpower


    It doesn’t take long and takes away credibility. Yes, I’m talkin’ to you, Kyle Reddoch!

    What’s with:
    (#3) “I once a man and a women” [that’s just stupid]
    (#5) “As with the pregnancy situation, keep our mouth shut.” [careless typo]
    (#5) “Don’t be in the position; asking…” [wtf punctuation]

    There are probably more errors. This ‘Everday Web Expert’ needs to learn a few more tips…

    Also, ‘Do Not Type in Uppercase Unless You’re Friggin’ Angry!”

    That one was for me.

  2. Just Jon

    Or how about #9. “when the boss in wrong about being wrong”

    Please! You lose all credibility when you don’t proofread your article and make stupid mistakes like that. Just that same as how you discount blog comments that have misspelled words and l33tspeak, so do educated people so do with your article.


  3. Samantha

    I’ve had personal experience with the pregnancy thing. A woman I worked with had a nice size tummy and I almost commented on when she was due. I shut my mouth and sure enough I found out later she wasn’t pregnant.

  4. Mel C

    Improper grammar and misspellings are my own personal pet peeve and give me headaches. I sure hope your other blog entries are a little more polished. I don’t write a blog, so if I made any mistakes, WHATEVER. You, Mr. Reddoch, need to be more careful if you want to be taken seriously.

    In answer to your this entry, though, you forgot one pivotal rule: If you don’t know or don’t understand what is being asked of you, ask! I ask my supervisor and check in with her over and over if there’s something “iffy.” When she hired me I made this plenty clear, that I liked to ask lots of questions. She was fine with this and so is not surprised or disturbed when I ask her tons of questions. The end result? A perfect project just the way she wanted it (sometimes better). Obviously this only applies to once-in-a-blue-moon type of projects…

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