And you don't even know it

By Mark Newman
April 16, 2016

The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “What are the three most unprofessional things an employee can do on the job?” is by Mark Newman, CEO of HireVue.

When you remove salary and benefits from the equation, work-life balance is the top priority for the majority of the workforce today. However, as our personal and professional lives continue to blur, this naturally creates more opportunities for us to appear unprofessional at work. While there are many obvious ways to damage your reputation and credibility at work (foul language, dressing poorly, stealing, etc.), there are some less obvious ways as well. Below are three common behaviors I see quietly undermining respect at work:

Being a friend instead of a leader
For the first time in history, millennials are the largest generation in the workforce, and their representation in leadership roles is growing at a phenomenal rate. According to Deloitte’s 2015 Millennial Survey some 50% consider themselves in a leadership positions. As the most hyper-connected generation in the workforce, friendships play a huge role in the lives of millennials and it can be hard to ‘shut that off at work’. While I’m not suggesting you don’t make friends with your co-workers (you definitely should) making ‘friendship’ your leadership strategy sets you up to fail. Teams will rally around and do incredible things for people they trust and respect — especially when facing challenges. When likability is confused with trust, it can quickly becomes a problem when it’s time to make tough decisions. There’s an important distinction between being an empathetic, supportive leader and being everyone’s BFF.

See also: 3 Things Coworkers Should Never See You Do

Not taking accountability when necessary
As work responsibilities increases, teams assemble and disassemble faster than ever. Fluid, non-traditional organizational structures puts more people in leadership roles and can create confusion as reporting structures stay in flux. As leadership roles ebb and flow, it becomes easier to simply push responsibility up the chain blaming other for unpopular decisions. The bottom line is that leaders at every level should understand the company’s mission and goals, steer their teams accordingly, and stay accountable for the decisions they make. Starting important or uncomfortable conversations with “they” is cowardly, and the ones reporting to you will question your ability to have their back when the situation is reversed. Self audit yourself and consciously make the effort to take accountability for your mistakes.

Being too much of the “real you”
There is a growing emphasis on the importance of authenticity because it’s a value prioritized by the new generation of consumers and workers. When you add in the ubiquity of personal sharing on social media, the notion of having a private life feels like it’s evaporating. It shouldn’t. I’m all for authenticity, but it’s my strong recommendation that you leave the personal stuff at home. A recent Glassdoor study shows that 60% of managers are uncomfortable being friends on Facebook and I’m surprised this number isn’t higher. When a leader sees a member of their team “being real” (which could be considered inappropriate or irresponsible) it’s almost impossible not to let that influence their view of the person at work. Rather than thinking you need to awkwardly overshare your life outside of work, instead embrace your desire for authenticity by helping your coworkers understand your strengths and the areas you’re trying to improve.

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