I Just Work Here

10 forbidden work behaviors for managers

Inspired by China's Communist Party, I've written a list of don'ts for U.S. bosses

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RULE: NO BUZZWORDS OR JARGON

RULE: NO BUZZWORDS OR JARGON (Tuomas Kujansuu / Getty Images / October 18, 2013)

Communist Party leaders in a county in southwestern China recently received an interesting list of "10 Forbidden Behaviors."

I first read about this in The Washington Post, but several news reports have detailed the new rules for Pengshan County officials, which include: don't ask others to write documents for you; don't smoke or pick your teeth in public; don't ask others to pour you tea, carry your bags or open and close car doors for you; and don't use jargon in speeches.

According to the Post story, the county government set up an email address and phone line so residents can rat out any officials who violate these rules. The list of forbidden behaviors was widely mocked, with most people saying, in essence: "Duh, these are pretty basic rules for behaving properly."

That's exactly why I think a similar list should be created, de-communisted and issued to managers in every American workplace. (It should go to all the politicians here as well, but since this is a workplace column, I'll leave them alone.)

Why, you ask, would a modern-day workplace manager need a list of rudimentary rules of behavior?

Because, I answer, based on what I hear from readers, a lot of folks out there need a refresher course.

What's my long-standing workplace mantra? Be a decent human being.

Yet what do many of you, the great American workers, see out of your bosses and managers? Bad behavior. Violations of simple rules of decency. An unwillingness to do the easy things that make employees happy.

I'm painting with a broad brush. There are certainly plenty of good leaders, and more and more companies are realizing the advantages of an employee-first culture.

But let's just acknowledge that all of us — bosses, managers and employees — can benefit from a quick behavioral overview.

So I took the Pengshan County list, kept many of its ideas and added a few of my own. Then I wrapped the new list in an American flag and set it next to a speaker playing Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." on a loop for 24 hours.

The result:

I Just Work Here's List of 10 Totally Non-Communist All-American Forbidden Workplace Behaviors for Managers (and Probably for Workers and Politicians as Well).

1. Don't smoke or pick your teeth in public. (Kind of a no-brainer, but worth including, just in case. Hat tip to the Chinese.)

2. Don't rely on jargon.

Today's workers have highly tuned B.S. detectors, and nothing damages a leader's credibility more than talking to employees in sentences like, "I'm really feeling self-actualized about the initiative to bolster content development using an outside-the-box systems approach."

3. Don't be dodgy. This ties in with No. 2 but takes it a step further.

It's almost reflexive for a manager to spin things in a positive direction. That's a self-defeating plan in the long run, because spin is transparent, and you lose people's trust.

Say what's on your mind, whether it's good or bad news. Workers respect honesty and directness.

4. Don't do the once-a-month walkabout.

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