Go to top of page

Dos and Don'ts in the Workplace



This section gives a descriptive overview of the things one needs to do in order to advance or to progress in their career. This document aims to assist people who are already working and aspire to reach greater heights in the workplace as well as those who are not yet working but who one day aspire to have a great career.

Find the right challenge

You need to look at where you want to be and where you would like to see your career go then identify opportunities where you are currently that can be helpful in gaining the experience you would like to have. Once you have identified those opportunities then you need to find a way to get involved in the work associated with them. You also need to know areas you need more development on, it can be in communication, report writing, negotiating, etc. If you are aware of your developmental areas then you can identify challenging roles or responsibilities that you can fill which will challenge you to overcome your own limitations and allow you to improve. Sometimes you may not even be aware of your shortcomings, you can ask an individual you believe is observant and honest to give you advice on areas you can improve or develop then follow the same process in improving.

Look for opportunities to reshape your current job

You may want to progress in your current job into another area of specialisation, to a higher position, or you are interested in enhancing a certain area of your skills. Doing that will require you to reshape your current job in order to be better positioned for your future prospects. You can do that by volunteering for tasks that are usually given to people at higher positions or with a higher level of experience. That way you will show that you are capable of performing tasks at that level and you gain experience that will enable you to be counted among the more experienced individuals. You can also request to assist your boss with tasks assigned to them. That way you have a view of what knowledge, expertise and capabilities are required of a person in a higher position. You can also measure yourself against what is expected. Measure the level to which you are able to produce the work required by individuals in higher positions and compare your own capabilities

Consider temporary assignments outside your job description or department

If possible you should also get involved with assignments from other departments to enhance your knowledge and future prospects. Try to find a way to get involved in projects that are outside your scope of work but have the potential to help you sharpen certain skills you want to use in the future. If you would like to be a well-rounded manager someday it is important to be exposed to different kinds of individuals, different kinds of work and different kinds of working environments. Try to get a better understanding of what other individuals do, how they do and what they need to do it. You can do this by getting involved in the work they do. Find a way to provide your set of skills in other departments. That way you get to know more people and you get your own name across because you get to showcase what you can do and you learn new things and gain a fresh perspective of the work done in your organisation.

Get real

An individual's job description has roles and responsibilities for a reason. You need to understand what is expected of you and in what manner. Be honest with yourself. Do not over commit yourself or stretch yourself too thin. Understand your work load and how certain things influence each other and manage all of that accordingly. It is better to do only the things you are supposed to and do them well than to take on too much work and not finish any of it including the things you are supposed to do. You cannot take on everything at once if it will affect the responsibilities you have in a negative way. You need to be honest with the additional work required from you and be honest about your timelines.

Schedule and protect your time

In the working environment you need to have a clear understanding of what your priorities are and how they contribute to the bigger picture thus scheduling and managing your time is critical. Sometimes things will come up unexpectedly but you still need to be well aware of your other deadlines. Deadlines are key in how you manage your time. They help determine what needs to be done urgently and what can wait. Whenever you are given a task you need to request deadlines so that you can manage your own time and schedule your tasks accordingly. Doing so will help you remain organised and on top of things. Should you receive additional tasks you will also be able to communicate your timelines and your priorities and then get direction on what can be rescheduled. Always ensure that you communicate your time constraints and your priorities, that way you protect yourself and the individual assigning tasks will be well aware of your prior commitments.


Remember competence in your given work will not earn you brownie points. When you work, your work should speak for you in both your presence and absence. Management will take note of your work if it is good and it will prompt them to reward you accordingly. Being competent must be accompanied by recognition. This will keep you motivated and eager to achieve more. You do not have to go to your seniors to alert them of your good work, but as mentioned in the beginning, your work must speak for itself as this is your gateway to becoming even better. If you really want to advance your career, you have to ask for what you want. You need to be pro-active and never be afraid of challenges. Remember, your manager isn't a mind reader, and waiting quietly to be recognized is a quick recipe to getting passed over for a promotion that could have been yours.

Take some career development challenges

We are living in an ever changing society where career paths are constantly changing. This means that one's skills have to match up to the ever changing and world and your job knowledge continually improved. Invest in your skills and your knowledge of work, take extra classes, pick up a short course or attend workshops where they are addressing your current work. This will improve how you engage with your work and interaction with your colleagues at work.


One of the best ways to progress in your career, yet a difficult task to embark on, is the act of networking. Networking is a great way to advance your career because by being involved in it you meet different people who possess different skills that you can learn. This might be a door that opens to your next career step. A well-developed professional network can be a source of friendships, mentors, and referrals.

The workplace

The work environment is a very different set-up from an individual's social environment. Different aspects are associated with the work environment while the social environment is relatively flexible. You need to understand the rules associated with the work environment, especially if you have aspirations for career progression. Here we will provide a list of things you can do to ensure that you are in a better position to be respected professionally.

Work Ethic

Work ethics encompass those sets of good work qualities that enable one to be effective and efficient in the workplace. These are characteristics that people develop over time and can benefit them in the career progression. Add content here


Honesty at work is a must. In order to be trusted you need to be honest at work. You need to have integrity, loyalty and reliability. Having integrity requires that an individual conform to the standards they hold others to. If you expect others to behave in a certain manner it must start with you. Loyalty requires that an individual be loyal to the people they work with within reason though. You need to protect your manager, your co-workers and as a manager you must protect your subordinates as well. This should be done only if the things they are doing are within company policy, are legal and do not affect the organisation, themselves or co-workers in a negative way. You need to be reliable, you must say what you mean and mean what you say and stand by what you say/said unless convinced otherwise. That way people can rely on you and know they can trust you.


Trustworthiness requires an individual to tell the truth even under the most difficult circumstances. If you are wrong it is important to own up to it, admit it, and try to fix things then move on. Sometimes as people we make big mistakes unintentionally, it is important to be honest about those mistakes. Lying about it may lead to more lies which may land you in trouble but being honest about it allows you to start fixing the mistake and finding a way to move on. Sometimes you may even find that it is a small mistake to fix and you were under the impression that it is bigger than what it actually is.


You need to show respect in the office or whichever work environment you perform in. You must respect people for being people, for the value they add and for the fact that you are all in the same work environment. Subordinates need to give the due respect to their supervisors and supervisors need to also do the same. Mutual respect can result in a very effective, calm and friendly working environment for all parties. People who show respect to others generally reciprocate the same respect. If you want to be respected you need to also respect yourself and the work you do. Show that you understand the role given to you and show that you respect it enough to perform it to the best of your abilities. If you are an individual in a job that serves clients it is also very important to respect your clients. You must always bear in mind that you have this job because of your clients, you are there to serve them and you need to always provide a helping hand. Some jobs come with issues of client confidentiality, it is critical to respect this confidentiality because certain issues for clients are very sensitive. Respecting your clients requires that you treat them with the due respect, you are always friendly, you understand that the customer is always right and if you are in government you comply with the Batho Pele principles.


Fairness is very critical in the world of work. Being fair requires that an individual take themselves out of the equation at all times. You must always try to look at things from another's perspective, try to understand a person's reasons for taking a particular course of action and try to always give people the benefit of a doubt. The same rules should be applied across the board. An individual making the rules must implement them in a manner that is fair and equal. Different individuals are faced with different circumstances that also need to be put into consideration when implementing rules or codes of conduct and any other course of action. There are company policies and rules and regulations that people within any organisation should comply with. It is important for you to comply therefore, and whenever you feel you are unfairly treated or you see other individuals being unfairly treated you must communicate this within the relevant channels and do so in a fair manner as well to the individual you perceive as the perpetrator.


When you are hired to do a particular job you need to understand the responsibility it comes with. You need to be clear of what is expected of you and perform accordingly. Different tasks are given to different people with different titles for a reason, the sense of responsibility associated with those tasks is key. You need to understand the responsibilities associated with the task assigned to you and you need to comply accordingly. You also need to understand the impact your lack of compliance has so that when you are faced with consequences you do not act surprised. You also need to carry the weight of your responsibilities and not pass the buck, especially when things go wrong.


Caring is understanding of the fact that you work with humans not machines. People are people, they are not the same and they cannot be expected to be the same. Caring contributes to a friendly working environment. Showing you care can make a world of difference to an individual. Even when you discipline people, you need to show a sense of caring so that they do not feel victimised or ill-treated.

Willingness to achieve set goals
You do not have to pretend to be something or someone you are not in the workplace. This is not what we mean when we say fake it until you make it. In this context what we are referring to is that you need to have confidence and show eagerness to learn when presented with work. If the work is challenging and you have never done it before, do not be shy or be afraid to go and enquire for clarity. But never turn down something that you have the potential to do if you give yourself time to learn it. Confidence in the workplace is highly valued and very helpful to your managers as it relieves them of their many commitments and deadlines they already have lying on their table. Confidence produces excellence and makes managers trust you. Even if you make mistakes, be prepared to rectify them through learning. Remember most things you learn in life are not taught in the classroom, some of the things you need to learn as you move on or as the famous saying goes: "you fix the flight while it's already flying." Fear and stress can be your closest allies if you channel them effectively.



The section will address the things that one needs to AVOID doing in the workplace if they want to progress in their careers

Overwork yourself to a point where you cannot perform accordingly at work

As much as we want to succeed in our careers and build great legacies to leave behind. It is also wise to distress and allow yourself sometime with your family, friends or to take a good trip away from the business of work. Take time to detox and rejuvenate both your mental and physical strength. Great work is produced when one is healthy and can perform it effectively.

Use inappropriate language

It is important to always act professionally in the world of work. The manner in which you communicate with others is very important. It is imperative for any worker to remain professional and speak in a manner that shows that you understand that you are in a work environment, especially when communicating with your superiors and when communicating via email. This does not only refer to the choice of words but also includes the tone of voice and putting your point across in a respectful manner.

Disrespect others

We all have a role to play in the organisation, which is why the positions we are in were created. Each employee must respect another individual's role and not think that what they do is more important than what everyone else does. Each individual has a role to play and if they do not play their role well it may impact on others' work. Therefore you should never undermine the work other people are doing because you might require their assistance again.

Consistently providing excuses instead of results

individual who is full of excuses is not the ideal employee. Solid reasons need to accompany an unperformed task. They need to speak to why a particular job was not done and they need to perform the task at hand directly. Excuses can be tolerated to a certain extent as well. You must find ways to overcome challenges and learn from previous mistakes as well. Avoiding excuses is taking responsibility for your work and ensuring that all your tasks are always complete to avoid putting yourself in a bad light.

Miss deadlines without valid reasons

There are different kinds of deadlines, some are flexible some are critical and some are uncommunicated but somehow expected. You need to be clear of your deadlines and produce work in line with them, not doing so will create a bad name for yourself. If you are always missing deadlines it becomes a problem, especially if they are critical deadlines. It shows a lack of professionalism and will ensure that tasks are no longer they are not assigned to you. When tasks are no longer assigned to you, it means you are no longer relevant or of use to an organisation. This might lead to detrimental consequences for your career.


Gossiping at work is a bad habit. If you have a problem you need to speak out so that the problem can be resolved. You need to speak out through the relevant channels. If possible you need to approach the individual and speak to them respectfully about your issue. If the issue cannot be resolved then you need to follow the relevant channels available to you as per your company policies to ensure that the problem is resolved. You must not spread office gossip either, if you do not have facts about something rather not say anything until you have the full facts or find out what the truth really is through following the relevant channels. Sometimes however, even facts do not to be spoken especially if they do not concern you or the audience you have. Rather allow those things that concern others be dealt with by those relevant individuals.

Abuse employer resources

It is very important to refrain from using your computer and other office resources for things that can result in you losing your job. You must learn your company's IT policies and ensure that you always comply. Prevent doing things you need to hide if people have a view of your computer screen. If you are not sure about something it is always better to be safe than sorry, enquire with IT personnel on what is acceptable practice and what is not or you can go back to the company IT policy and refer to it. Other companies may provide employees with company cars so they can run errands or do company duties; this vehicle is only for that and not for other use unless you get permission from your seniors. The phone is also another one of the resources that you need to avoid misusing. It can be tempting to call your relatives and friends with your company or organisation's phone because you are not charged for it. However, this can turn against you in the near future where you are either instructed to pay back the money you owe for persona calls or you could even be dismissed. Therefore, one must take all relevant pre-cautions. Any company resource, no matter how big or small must be respected. From stationary to cars.


Complaining is not a good quality. It does not represent you in a good light. You must learn to work with what you have. If there are issues at work make means to clear those issues according to company policy. It is better to communicate if you are faced with challenges and at other times take the initiative to solve those problems yourself before escalating matters. Be careful who you complain to as others might use this to spread gossip to discredit you. Some complaints can be solved by yourself and others are best escalated appropriately. You need to know the difference between the two and act accordingly. Watch the tone that you use when you communicate your complaint. Do not sound like you are whining but ensure that you sound professional at all times and put your point across clearly.

Work poorly in a team

Organisations are linked; different departments perform different tasks in the effort of keeping the organisation functional and profitable. It is important to understand the impact of the work you do within the organisation and the impact of other departments' work within the organisation. It is not a good idea to refuse collaborating with other individuals or other departments because you all serve the same organisation and you never know which direction the company will take. You might end up being under the same department you refused to collaborate with or reporting to the individual you refused to work with. It is always good to maintain a good relationship with all individuals and departments, to be helpful wherever you can be and to do things in good faith remembering that you all serve the same organisation. Refusing to collaborate or work with other individuals also shows lack of team work from one's side which portrays a negative image about them. There are certain projects that require team work that will impact on your key performance area, therefore, teamwork is an essential skill and quality to have whether you favour a person or not.

Dress inappropriately

Different companies have different dress codes. The dress code for a law firm may be different for employees in a hospital. It is important to find out what the dress code for your particular company is and comply accordingly. It is very important to ensure that you are appropriately dressed at all times when you go to work. There is a dress code for a reason. In some companies you need to dress in protective gear because you work in a very hazardous environment. In other companies you may need to dress formally because you need to project a certain image. Dressing inappropriately in some environments may put you in danger, that's how important dress code is. You must make sure you comply with the dress code in your company at all times and maintain a good image for yourself within your company because while you are there you are representing the company. Some companies or organisations may not necessarily have clear outlined dress codes. However, as a professional it is advisable to always know that professional wear is applicable in most working settings. Avoid jeans, short skirts and dresses or generally revealing things. You are addressed the way you are dressed. Your presentation of self will determine the respect afforded to you by your colleagues.

Manage change badly

Technology has become engrained into a large part of the employment sector. It simplifies the way a lot of work is done and speeds up many processes. We cannot run away from the fact that a lot of the work done in this day and age in the corporate world is digitised and the use of computers has become a large part of the work we do. You need to learn to use technology and make it part of the work you do. Basic computer literacy is beneficial for all individuals and obtaining it can benefit you in your current job and in the future. Being a technophobe will not benefit you in the corporate world instead it will hinder your progress, you need to embrace technology and find ways to use it to make your job easier and to speed up processes.

Get in touch today:

086 999 0123
072 204 5056
National Khetha Walk-in,
123 Francis Baard Street,

Our Partners

To become our partner, a formal agreement in the form of a Memorandum of Agreement or Implementation Protocol with DHET Career Development Services is required. For more information click here.