5 Things to Immediately Stop Doing at Work

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By Robin Madell

The choices you make at work go a long way toward creating your daily reality. While you can't always control whether your experience in the office is satisfying or stressful, you can take pains to avoid actions and behaviors that will most likely lead to conflict with colleagues or other problems in your work environment.

Here are five things to quit doing today for greater happiness and a more successful career:Staying silent. A recent study conducted by Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield, co-authors of "Crucial Conversations," found that 56 percent of employees refrain from addressing troublesome issues at work for more than a year. While this might not appear to cause immediate conflict, Grenny and Maxfield note that such silence has a long-term effect that can bubble up and cause problems down the road.

Instead of stewing in your juices, they recommend assuming that people are capable of change. "More than half of respondents haven't spoken up because they don't believe the person could or would change," Grenny says. "But people do change all the time. Ask yourself: 'If I were in the other person's shoes, and I had a true friend who knew what I know, would I want them to tell me?' Most of us say 'yes,' because we care and have confidence we can change. Do the person the favor of letting them try to change."

Multitasking. You may be so used to trying to knock three things off of your to-do list at once that focusing on a single task seems like a luxury. But 2009 research from Stanford University has shown that your productivity seriously suffers when you attempt to accomplish too much at the same time.

Multitasking is also stressful, according to Janesse Bruce, co-author of "MeQuilibrium – 14 Days to a Cooler, Calmer and Happier You." "Multitasking isn't like tennis or learning French; you don't get better the more you do it," Bruce says. "Your brain isn't designed to focus on more than one thing at a time, and an attempt to do so results in splintered focus. Multitasking doesn't give you or me a leg up on anything."

Instead of the juggling act, the Stanford study suggests that it's better to focus on one string of information at a time.

Oversharing. When you give "TMI" about your personal life to your colleagues or supervisor, you're risking damaging your work relationships, as well as your career. Corrie Shanahan, CEO of The Beara Group LLC , notes that people overshare with alarming frequency, whether it's about the bad date they had over the weekend or their physical ailments. "Unless you are talking to a close friend, in confidence, there are a ton of things that should stay in your private life," she advises. "As relationships in the workplace alter and morph, you may find yourself bitterly regretting the offhand comment you made to a colleague."

This goes for inappropriate emailing as well as live conversations. "Do not send anything that would embarrass you if it was forwarded," Shanahan says. "Even though you may trust the recipient, we have all accidentally hit 'send' too soon or to the wrong address. You don't want your diatribe about your boss or colleagues to be in that email chain."

Gossiping. Bill Fish, president of ReputationManagement.com, says the biggest issue he has seen over the years that causes conflict at work is gossip. "I can't even count the amount of times I've had to intervene with employees who are upset that someone is talking about them behind their back, or betrayed their confidence by sharing information that they should not have," he says. "In reality, you are going to run into gossip situations whether it is the middle school girls' volleyball team, or the finance team at a Fortune 500 company, but I've seen it destroy plenty of relationships and result in people leaving their job."

As a solution, Shanahan adds that it's important to remember this mantra: If you can't say something nice, say nothing at all. "Gossiping at work is corrosive and serves no one well, including the gossiper," he says. "If you are gossiping about others, it is likely you're in an environment where you will also be gossiped about. Not good."

Bringing a bad mood to work. Studies have shown that negative moods can spread from person to person. That means if you enter the office with a down vibe, your gloom can quickly affect others, causing team engagement and morale to suffer. "Emotions are contagious," says Aimee Bernstein, author of "Stress Less. Achieve More."

"People need to take ownership for their feelings and find ways to let go of the pressure without dumping it on others," Bernstein says. "And when it is the boss who takes it out on his or her team, it can easily spread throughout the organization." Fortunately, the opposite has also been shown to be true, so cultivating a positive, upbeat mood in the office can lift the spirits of those around you.

Robin Madell has spent over two decades as a corporate writer, journalist, and communications consultant on business, leadership and career issues. She serves as a copywriter, speechwriter and ghostwriter for executives and entrepreneurs across diverse industries, including finance, technology, healthcare, law, real estate, advertising and marketing. Robin has interviewed over 1,000 thought leaders around the globe and has won 20 awards for editorial excellence. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association in both New York and San Francisco, and contributed to the book "Be Your Own Mentor: Strategies from Top Women on the Secrets of Success," published by Random House. Robin is also the author of "Surviving Your Thirties: Americans Talk About Life After 30" and co-author of "The Strong Principles: Career Success." Connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter: @robinmadell.
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