4 major work blunders to avoid

Every organization has its unwritten rules, but there are some generally accepted ways to handle yourself at work, no matter your job. Here are a few major transgressions.

Being oblivious to others

business blunders rude

The workplace is filled with poor listeners. These people blather on during meetings and calls, failing to think of the other person's perspective or to pick up on cues that their messages are falling on deaf ears. Please don't be one of them.

"The reason this is so problematic is that it's an imbalanced conversation," Melcher explains. "The other person is starting to conclude that you don't have any self-awareness."

You should also be aware of the lines of power in your organization. Don't bad-mouth someone to a colleague because you never know who has behind-the-scenes loyalties. Be aware of the official -- and the unofficial -- organizational chart so you don't end up speaking to your boss like a buddy or to your peers like a supervisor.

"Treating your boss like a peer is a faux pas. Treating a peer like a subordinate is a faux pas," says George Bradt, author of the forthcoming book First-Time Leader. For instance, if you're leading a team that includes people who aren't your direct reports, they are your peers; you can't expect to order them around. Rather, you need to win their cooperation by setting mutual goals.

"When somebody tells you [the names of people on] your team, ask about who they report to, and ask about the shadow reporting," Bradt advises. For instance, one new company president was technically in charge of marketing and business development, but it turned out that the head of business development was a company founder and best friends with the chief executive, another founder.

"You've got a guy working for you who started the company? He's your boss!" Bradt says.

Don't waste people's time, even in small ways. If you ask for a networking meeting, arrive having researched the person and his organization. Have an agenda, even if it's just in your mind, to give the conversation structure.

  @FortuneMagazine - Last updated December 11 2013 09:52 AM ET
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