10 Preventable Professional Mistakes

[via top cultured] 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.

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