Before Financial Independence, It’s All About the Job

Before you say goodbye forever to your 9 to 5 daily grind and the commuter train ride that you have been “enjoying” every day for the past umpteen years, you more than likely have to be somewhat successful at a “job” to get to your true dream. You know the one you’ve had since you first started out working: financial independence!

For job success, there are certains things you need to do, and other things you need to avoid. Here are the no-go's that could tank your career.

Look around though and you will probably see many “long-timer” faces that are plugging away at what they do, even if they dream about FI and yet still haven’t moved off square one in their pursuit of that dream. Others, scores of them, come and go from your work arena and almost all of them leave not for FI. They leave in many cases like the Christians left the arena back in ancient Rome did, or they migrate to some other dead end job that leaves them grinding and commuting forever. That’s not what you want, is it? But before FIRE (financial independence, retire early), it’s all about the job! Job success has to come first.

How to Succeed in Business, But with LOTS of Trying

It’s easy to think that hard work, motivation, and enthusiasm will always get you ahead in the workplace. It seems like a given that if you work hard, you’ll be recognized and rewarded, right? It’s sort of the American way. But, it often depends on avoiding many “workplace no-go’s” that can severely hinder your career progression and ultimately your chances at FI. Let me explain.

We all know that positive workplace behaviors and attributes like hard work, motivation, enthusiasm, and a willingness to contribute to company development above and beyond your responsibilities can lead to positive career outcomes such as a promotions and/or pay raises. But what many of us don’t seem to get is that the “workplace no-go’s”, the behaviors you just never should go to, are out there and they can really derail you at your job. Even worse, these derailing no-go actions can become the habits that can screw you and your chances of ever being that FIRE success story stuck inside your brain.

“No-Go’s” have just as big an impact on your career as the hard work you do—but in a super negative way!

While the culture of each workplace may be different and certainly is ever-evolving over the years, the bottom line is that inappropriate behavior in the workplace can lead to a stunted career progression. It can stop you from job success, from getting that all-important pay raise or that much-anticipated promotion or it can even cost you your job! You must be aware of those negative things and what not to do that are potentially career-damaging workplace no-go’s. All of which are a definite must to avoid!

12 No-Go’s to Know-Know

1. Don’t be late

If I have to explain this to you, then you are already in serious trouble. Time is money for one thing and when someone is paying for your time they expect to get every penny of it.

When you are supposed to be somewhere, like at your desk at 8:30 am or a meeting or an appointment, it’s disrespectful to schedule time and then arrive late or text that you aren’t back from lunch yet or you’re “sorry, stuck in traffic”. With a staff meeting, why is your time so much more valuable than the entire group’s time?

The bigger problem I see here is that if you have an “on-time problem” it tends to become habitual and follow you around all of your life. That’s a no-go that often means never being financially rewarded and independent!

2. Cool it with your personal calls

In the work environment of less space, poor insulation, and no office doors to close, be respectful of your shared air space. Hellllooooo, everyone can hear every word you’re saying. Tangentially, the TMI factor is a no-go. Most of your co-workers really don’t want to know the details of all of your personal issues and if they do, they will probably ask you away from your desk and others. You need to do the same. TMI overload is a no-go. Oh, and by the way, it’s personal stuff on company time!

3. Avoid dress code violations and inappropriate clothing

Office cultures do vary and you need to fit in well to yours. Someday you may be the one who says what that is, but in your current office you need to understand what constitutes “office casual”. I’m betting it’s not your Aerosmith T-shirt or your Hello Kitty socks. Put on some grown-up clothes and act the part.

4. Ditch bad words

When you drop a huge box on your foot and your utter F$%k, well that does happen. But, when the language is becoming routine like when you describe the morning coffee or talk about your current work assignments, it’s a no-go. Besides, you can’t possibly know what bad language might offend your co-workers or boss, so be cool and civilized—all the time.

5. Watch what you say in general, because it matters

Don’t talk negatively about your employer, managers, or co-workers. If you have a gripe about your company or somebody in it, take it through the appropriate channels. Talk to your manager or human resources department and if you don’t want to act on it, then keep it to yourself. Never vent to co-workers via email because there is always the risk you’ll unwittingly commit the ultimate faux pas and send the email to the wrong person!

Don’t be a gossip or spread rumors. Gossiping can be one of the quickest ways to ruin relationships and create a tense and awkward workplace atmosphere.

Don’t make sexually suggestive, racist, or inappropriate comments or jokes—ever. They will certainly not impress management, and could get you quickly labeled as an immature and unprofessional worker and fired.

Never say things like “It’s not part of my job.” Successful people make themselves more valuable to their employer, not less, by enthusiastically accepting whatever tasks their boss throws at them and by being a team player.

6. Don’t steal

Again, I hope you do not need to be told this one, but as minor as it might seem to occasionally lighten the office stationary supply of the odd pen or two, stealing from your workplace (stealing anything at all) is one of the quickest ways to get yourself fired and ruin your reputation. You should never take those risks no matter how small the item.

7. Don’t waste company time

OMG, please don’t just sit around doing nothing. Find something to do or ask for something to do if you are all caught up. Bonus points when you do.

If you are wasting time on your computer, you will get into trouble. Many companies monitor internet and email use and will catch time-wasting employees. Keep personal emails (and phone calls) to a minimum and try to limit personal use of the internet to just your lunchbreak if that is allowed.

8. Don’t be a slob

Clean up your act and try to keep your desk and workspace neat and clean. A cluttered, dirty desk can make you appear unprofessional or unproductive. Don’t allow mugs and plates, papers or books to build up, and leave your desk clear each day when you head home.

9. Forego alcohol at office parties

Yes, it’s tempting to let your hair down and partake in a few drinks especially when it’s paid for by the company. But, it can be one of the quickest ways to lose face with senior management. While it’s fine to have one or two at a social event, workers who have one too many quickly lose the respect of their colleagues. Try to maintain a distinct line between your social and professional life.

10. Don’t date a coworker

It is never great idea, but people still insist on playing with this kind of fire. Yes, you always get to see your partner. Even if dating is allowed (and it’s probably not), when these relationships don’t work out, you still get to see your former partner and that awkwardness is deafening.

11. Do not discuss political, religious, or other controversial topics

You will find that there are lots of different opinions out there and they can be very argumentative and explosive.

12. Avoid talking about personal finances

I know there is a trend out there to compare salaries and perks, but my advice is to keep all of your work/money issues private. If you have an issue with compensation, you should only discuss that with your supervisor or HR.

Other personal money matters are also no-go’s and are not work appropriate subjects. I always avoided them.

Final Thoughts

Look, high stress levels may cause you to react to situations emotionally, or to behave in an otherwise less-than-professional manner. It does happen and none of us are perfect. Unfortunately, there are certain things when repeated, like these no-go’s, that can set you waaaaay back in their pursuit of your goals. It’s like trying to kick the winning field goal from your own 5 yard line. It’s never going to happen.

Negative statements you make to your boss and noticeable no-go’s almost always damage your career. They will come across as unprofessional and inconsiderate. Don’t ever be “that guy” if you want and plan to be FI one day. That day won’t ever come if you are.

What no-go’s do you see in your workplace? Are you on the road to job success? Are you doing everything you can right now to leave your daily grind and move in the world of FIRE? Is financial independence your ultimate goal in life?

4 Comments

  1. Great post Gary, I had a very successful and enjoyable career all the way up to running the large company I started out as an intern with. Those no go’s are right on target. While it does take superior talent to make it to the top no amount of talent can survive bad behaviors like those!

    1. Thanks, Steveark. Those at the top are the role models and have to set examples so that the younger folks know exactly what the behaviors look like that can get them there. That doesn’t guarantee that they will follow those leaders, but it does help remove any excuses that they might make about it.

  2. Interesting about not discussing salary. In a government job like the one I have, salaries are public, so it’s a non-issue. However, why not share salary info, especially as you are leaving a job? It’s important for coworkers to know if they are being underpaid so that they can advocate for themselves. In general, women are paid less than men for the same job (unless it’s a govt job with posted salaries). The glass ceiling still exists & needs to be consistently challenged.

    1. Those are good points, Baby Boomer, and I can see where that would be helpful to your coworkers. In my own experience, salary ranges for the positions I held were vastly different depending on who and what facility they were working at. It was a bone of contention, so people steered clear of talking about salary (and the salaries were not equitable for men or women). Perhaps that is changing in the 21st century.

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