It was 1997 and I was working at a staffing agency. We were celebrating the year end and we were headed to the dog tracks in Selma, Texas on a chartered bus. There was alcohol, and everybody was getting loud and crazy. We had had a long year and two recruiters had just been promoted to account managers. Everybody was giving the recently promoted high fives and congratulating them. It truly looked like a scene from the movie the The Boiler Room. Most of us were recent college graduates. All of our guards were down. Now wait, were they?

The answer is “No”, What I didn’t realize, and many others didn’t realize at the time, is that we were all being tested. Most of us failed, and failed miserably. Our mouths sounded like cursing sailors, and we were openly talking about work. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I can think of 2 or 3 people that were married, and most of the others on this trip were single and many were being flirtatious with other co-workers of the opposite sex. Not smart. Not smart at all.

This all happened one Friday, and Monday at 6:30 AM came really early. Our boss had pulled our team into his office and he closed the door. Our boss had observed it all. He recognized what everyone was doing and called us out on each thing we did that evening. All of us felt sick and embarrased. He wasn’t mad, just pointing out that we weren’t invisible and there was a time and a place for that type of activity. That was not it. Needless to say, that was a tough lesson for all of us. Fortunately none of us lost our jobs.

Now, I was 23 at the time and yes that does happen to someone fresh out of college, but it can happen to anybody at any age. Since that time, I have chosen to be the observer, not the active participant and it has served me well. Your activity when at an event like this can lead to what I call a “CLM” or a Career Limiting Move.

My lesson was easy, your’s may not be as easy. I have seen executives exit organizations for behavior like this. CLM’s occur out of the office, but also within the office.

Here are 10 tips to avoid a CLM:

  1. Understand Work is Work – Don’t forget it. You are being paid to do a job and keeping work and outside activities separate is very important. This is not saying you don’t have a confidant that you can bounce ideas off of and complain about the days events, but realize who your audience is before opening your mouth too much.
  2. Do The Job You Are Asked – You have a job description of what you are supposed to do each and every day. You know what is expected of you. Others around you may be doing something different, but you may jeopardize your career if you regularly do something that is outside your scope of work.
  3. Cool Off Before Doing Something You Will Regret – We all have the bad day. Our bosses frustrate us and things get out of control sometimes. Walk away from a bad situation before saying something you will regret. Take a 10 minute walk away from your desk. Take an early lunch. Do what ever you have to do to cool off before you say something that you can’t take back.
  4. Stay Away from E-mail – How many times have you fired off an e-mail when you know you shouldn’t. This goes back to the cooling off point. Anything written is forever. With today’s technology if you send an e-mail just assume the whole world can see it. Pick up the phone first, that is of course after you cool off. Tone is hard to read in an e-mail and often times can be misconstrued.
  5. Be Involved – Genuinely care. Care about what the company is doing. Care about other employees. Go to lunch with your coworkers and be involved. Get involved in projects where someone needs a hand. Take that step when others aren’t willing to take them. If you aren’t involved, you won’t be noticed and someone who may not have the skills you have will pass ahead of you in your career.
  6. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer – You know who you can and can not trust in an office. You know who you choose to follow and not to follow. Be aware of the people who don’t have your best interest in mind and kill them with kindness. If you stick with the golden rule “Treat others as you wish to be treated” then you won’t have to worry about your “enemies”.
  7. Never Burn a Bridge – You will never know where you will cross paths again. Things change. Management changes; companies get bought out; people change careers. Even if your current situation isn’t ideal, always wake up every morning with “today is a new day” attitude and put your best foot forward.
  8. Stay Away From The Gossip Game – Keep your nose to the grindstone. Don’t worry too much about what others are saying. Stay out of trouble and do your job. Who cares if someone may move to another department? Who really cares who is not hitting quota? Control what you can control and mind your own business! Simply do your job.
  9. Be Low Maintenance – Managers hate nothing more than when they have to manage your every move. Watch your sick days, watch your time off requests. Everyone needs time away, but don’t make it a habit. If someone can count on you to come in and do your job without any further instruction, you will be their hero. After all, they have a job to do also.
  10. Keep The Cell Phone in Your Pocket – There is nothing more annoying than someone who takes a personal call every 5 minutes. If you need to take a call, walk outside and keep the conversation to a minimum. Chances are, it can wait. No one wants to hear your personal life all of the time. Something you say may be overheard by someone that may raise some eyebrows.