When I left college, I had a very inflated sense of self. I thought for sure that I was ready for not only a job, but respect and promotions and instant accolades. I got pretty good grades in school, nailed my interview and felt a huge sense of relief when I got the job. I thought that was the hard part. I thought once you got the job offer, you were golden. Turns out, getting the job is the easy part.
I strode into my first real job in a fresh H&M rayon dress, so fresh I tugged the forgotten tags off on my way up the elevator. On my feet, a new pair of ballet flats, already filling with sweat and rubbing blisters into my heels. A canvas tote slung over my shoulder containing a fresh notepad that I assumed would soon be filled with important, professional notes, a granola bar and a ball point pen.
As you might expect, the over-confident character in the story always gets a platter of reality served to them. My boss was too busy to acknowledge, let alone train me, on my first day. I spent most of the day sitting at an empty desk staring at my inbox, waiting for instructions to move. By the second day, I had so much to do, it was 5 p.m. before I could take a bathroom break which ended up doubling as a granola bar lunch break and crying session. When a coworker overheard me sobbing in the stall beside her, I mistook her concern for an ear to piss in. I learned my first rule of the office that day. First and foremost, your coworkers are not your friends. Sure, one day they might be, after trust and respect is built, but in the beginning, they are professional acquaintances. And what you say to them, reflects on what people in the office think of you. To save you from the embarrassment I endured, I've made a list of the top eight things not to say to your coworkers.
"Why is our boss such a nightmare?"
It's so tempting to complain about your boss. And most likely you have good reason to. But your boss is the key to your employment, so save that complaining for your journal or the safety of your own home. As a new employee you should never, ever say a negative word about your boss to a coworker, even if they bring it up.
"This company is a hell hole."
Yes, I've actually said this. You might find that the company you were so dazzled with during your employment process turns out to be not as snazzy once you're on the inside. Keep that thought to yourself. If you're unhappy there and you don't believe in the company, look for a new job and leave. If you're unhappy and you stay, you're not doing anyone any favors.
"How much money do you make?"
It's so tempting. But it's also private information. Sometimes it's a contractual requirement to keep your salary hidden. You put your coworkers in an uncomfortable position when you ask questions like that. If you feel like you're being underpaid, talk to your boss or HR about it. Don't waste your time trying to figure out what everyone else is getting paid. It's irrelevant.
"That's not my job."
When your boss asks you to do something, and it's legal and moral and within the realms of the company's needs, you do it. Maybe your title is "associate editor" and you've been asked to run a few errands. You just do them. Unless you're in a situation where you're constantly being asked to do things that are outside of your capabilities, interests or position, you have to be flexible. And again, if you feel like something is off, talk to HR. Not a coworker.
"I'm so hungover."
We're all adults. Some of us more that others. You don't need to desert your social life once you get a job, but you do need to be a professional. If you can't have a few drinks and manage to get up on time, look presentable and be sharp at the office, don't drink. Learn your limits. And even if you think your coworkers are hip and cool and maybe hungover themselves, don't give them any ammunition. Always exude professionalism.
Any kind of gossip
Try your best not to. Don't eavesdrop, don't spread stories, don't ask personal questions. If your coworkers want to gossip with you, smile and nod and change the subject. You don't want to get a reputation of being a gossip queen.
"Don't ask me."
People will ask you questions that you don't always know the answers to. When you're unable to answer them, be as helpful, guiding and graceful as you can. By saying "don't ask me" you're telling whoever is asking that you're bitter. Don't be bitter. Be professional.
"I can't wait to leave."
Listen, everyone wants to go home. No one wants to stay at the office forever. But if you get reputation for being the one who's always complaining about being there, you're putting yourself in a position for someone to tell you not to bother to come in at all. It's happened to me. Smile, and be thankful for the job that's paying your bills and giving you experience. And again, if you don't like it, find a new job.