You’ve probably heard these workplace adages: Don’t leave before your boss or curse at the office, and definitely don’t get drunk at the holiday party. We’re not saying those rules don’t apply anymore—let’s be real, it’s never kosher to knock down multiple cosmos in the same room as the person who determines your salary—but things have changed. You’re more likely to hear people drop an F-bomb while on the clock (research shows it can actually bring employees closer), and a younger workforce is blurring hierarchical lines. So how should you behave now? Heed this advice!
Don’t wait to do great work. Stuck at a job you don’t love? Yep, been there. Young people now are more likely to be underemployed than past generations. But the biggest mistake you can make is to act like you’re above the menial tasks you’re given, says Deborah Rivera, founder of The Succession Group, an executive search consulting firm. “I’ve seen employees who aren’t even trying to excel,” she says. “They think, When I start my real job, I’ll do well. But no one will recommend you if you don’t take your current one seriously. Find value in every task—and do it better than everyone else.”
Don’t talk sh*t on the record. “A client asked me for some recommendations for an ad agency,” says Jackie K., 45, a communications director in Westport, Connecticut. “So I reached out to a great agency and wrote about my client’s existing publicity campaign, ‘My client needs you; you’ve probably seen their hideous ads around the city.’ When the agency said yes and I forwarded their contact info to the client, that little tidbit was forwarded as well! The client called my boss to complain. Thankfully, my boss was nice about it—he reminded me to be careful—but I learned a valuable lesson. Nowadays everyone does work on their phone, where it can be harder to see an entire email thread. If you’re not sure, don’t forward. Just start a new chain to be safe!”
Don’t hook up on the clock. Dating a coworker? Totally happens these days. But be warned: “Because the work environment is less formal and folks work weird hours, there have been increasing reports about people literally having sex at work,” says Roy Cohen, career counselor, executive coach, and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide. “When you’re working, you’re being paid to work.” Plus: Hello, boundaries!
Don’t ignore the pecking order. “I was working at a huge media company, and an opportunity came up to switch into a department I knew I’d be a lot happier in,” says Nora C., 29, an editor in Brooklyn. “I had no idea how to go about it, so I took several meetings behind my boss’s back to try to make it happen. Of course, she found out and was upset. Things ended up working out—she let me split time between the two departments. People my age are always looking for professional growth and purpose, but you have to be up front, no matter how awkward it may be.”