Employees could be sabotaging their own careers without knowing it, especially those who believe that simply working longer hours will get them promoted, according to recruitment specialists.

Everything from engaging in office gossip to going over a manager’s head will slow a worker’s progression up the career ladder but in a competitive marketplace, the things people do in their own time are increasingly affecting their reputations at work.

Lois Keay-Smith, of Career Wisdom, said social media had changed the way people communicated both inside and outside the workplace, while presenteeism was as much an issue as absenteeism.

“Throwing a cardigan over the back of a chair and being there in body but not being particularly productive is probably not fooling anyone, ” Ms Keay-Smith said.

“You are then creating a culture where you believe that being there longer than anyone else means you should be promoted.

“Not taking breaks and being a martyr leads to nothing more than a breakdown in productivity and health. Equally, you should not be a slave to your inbox — often it will lead to inefficiencies because you’re not getting your original task done and being distracted by others.”

Social media could be a trap for some — especially when they were spending too much time checking their accounts while at work.

Others, who had an online alter ego, should use privacy settings to make sure it was confined to family and friends, or delete negative posts and images.

“Socialising is another area where people might not be doing themselves any favours, ” Ms Keay-Smith said.

“If you’re out during work hours, be mindful of the time, and exit gracefully when you need to, ” she said.

Annoying habits that violated office etiquette, such as offensive smells, loud conversations and leaving dirty cups and glasses, also would been seen harshly by managers and co-workers.

“You need to ask yourself, or a trusted colleague, how you’re appearing to others, ” she said. “It’s important to follow the unwritten rules of a shared workspace.”

Andrew Brushfield, Victoria and WA director at Robert Half, said employees were more scrutinised than ever, starting at the application stage when hiring managers would check people’s online presence to get a feel for the candidate.

“It’s now common practice for employers, including government departments, to check your online reputation, ” Mr Brushfield said. “Always keep a clean digital footprint.”

Engaging in office gossip, particularly about managers, could come back to bite people, even if the gossip is relatively harmless.

“There’s nothing wrong with talking around the water cooler — it’s important to network and find out what’s going on around the workplace but never turn it into negative gossip, ” Ms Keay-Smith said.

“Talking to your workmates and keeping up with them socially is good for morale but what you choose to talk about is the key.”

Mr Brushfield said people should only ever go over their manager’s head when there was evidence of wrongdoing or they were being subjected to unlawful discrimination or harassment.


© The West Australian