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5 Things I Would Never Do in Corporate America

Updated: Dec 13, 2022

Social media is a powerful tool and I’m sure you’ve heard about the five things trend. Of course, I wanted to provide my commentary on five things I’d never do…. I realized a few things; some of you may not be on TikTok, and may have missed that important post, but also in one minute I wasn’t able to provide context for my tips. A blog will allow us time and space to explore each tip.

My five tips were garnered from my own professional experience. Hopefully, these tips will prove to be helpful navigating corporate; especially for those of you who may be new to corporate or are seeking positions.

Drumroll please, without further ado 5 Things I Would Never Do in Corporate America blog.

1. Never be a kiss up

To paraphrase Tony Brown, I firmly believe “I teach people how to treat me”. Thus, it’s important to value and respect yourself as an individual and professional. In my estimation, being a kiss up is never worth the emotional labor nor the potential professional cost. My grandmother would always say, “Since you can’t kiss your own butt don’t kiss anyone else’s”. In reality, if you’re not personally acquainted with an individual, you’ll never really know how to gain favor with them, or suck up without time spent in either observation or via trial and error, during which an individual will try different avenues to gain favor. The challenge is once others understand what’s happening, there’s a high probability of you experiencing their judgment or more importantly loss of respect for you.

2. Never get too comfortable with your coworkers

I’ve heard it said to “be friendly but not too comfortable with your coworkers”. As nice as they may be, your coworkers are never your friends at work. Work relationships are like any other; they are a delicate balance of shared interests and shared experiences which may over time lead to trust. I believe your relationships with friendly co-workers should follow the same vetting process because they are no different.

Since the co-worker relationship is primarily defined by shared employment, by definition you are, at most, potential allies with your co-workers. Allies because your shared common interest is the employer, probably coupled with your notion that surmised “they’re nice”, that’s all. Allies have a special relationship because of their shared interest, but that relationship, albeit amicable, is not exactly friendly. In this illustration allow me to indulge my inner history nerd for a moment. Let’s consider the United States’ history with one of its most noted allies France. Throughout history each country (party) made strategic moves that initially represented their own personal interests then considered their allied common interest or the greater good; lest we forget World War II, so I digress. You would do well to remember that example when managing co-worker relationships and be open to a possible friendship, as my grandmother would say, “Time will tell.”

3. Never play favorites

If we’re honest we all have a favorite. I am most guilty of selecting favorites in favor of simplicity. My favorite clothing color is black, because it goes with everything and it’s slimming. Favorites can be great but, having apparent “favorites” does not translate well on a team; especially if you’re leading a team. I will avoid the rabbit hole of implicit bias here (google it) and simply say, if your goal is shared cohesiveness and productivity there’s no quicker way to undermine that effort than having “favorites”. In short, as a leader it is important to consider the thoughts and feelings of the entire team, not just the top producers. Favorites will always stand out and shine. Are they really that much better or is it because they’re seen, valued and appreciated?

When there is a favorite teammate what happens to the remaining team members? There are myriad reasons why someone could have a less than stellar performance at any given time, life happens. As Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” No one likes to be unvalued, ignored or seen as less than. Essentially, in having a favorite and downplaying the efforts of others, you’re asking them to live up to your expectation.

4. Never be underdressed

I love to look nice, who doesn’t? I love that we live in an era where body positivity is a thing. I love that society is getting more comfortable with people being themselves, whatever that may be. The reality is corporate is not, I repeat not, society. And there is some truth to the stereotype of old men sitting around a boardroom table with other stuffy, dusty old men. When you build your table, you define the rules. Thus, if your aspiration is to be part of a Fortune 500 or other high-power corporation you have to look the part, no expectations; for real. There are literally millions of articles written on appropriate corporate dress, but I will say this: in corporate they notice everything. Save your true personal style for the weekends, and do yourself a favor and do not take “casual dress or jeans day” too far. I don’t love suits, but when I work in the office, I wear them along with some accent item that shows my flavor. I will never forget being in a boardroom and responding to a question and the CEO looked down at my leopard boots and said “You’ve got some funky shoes going on there”. I could have died: RIP Kandice.

5. Never ignore mistakes

No one is perfect, we all make mistakes. Assuming the mistake is easily correctable, when a mistake is made, own it, apologize, fix it and never repeat that mistake. A good manager will understand and help you navigate through that journey. If you respond in that way, any other managerial response is a red flag.

Here's a link to the original video on TikTok. Don't forget to follow me if you're on TikTok.

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