If you've ever worked in a corporate environment, then you know that a lot of office politics are complicated. You have to act a certain way and sometimes have to know the right people to get ahead, and saying the wrong thing at the wrong time can land you in a heap of trouble.
To help us navigate through the semantics, BuzzFeed reached out to Valerie Rodriguez, a director of people experience who has "managed everything at one point or another, from hiring and onboarding employees to running and processing payroll, to working with managers to coach employees and create development plans for those who struggled with their roles," Valerie told BuzzFeed. "I'd like to say I've done it all in HR and have always enjoyed every part I've touched."
1. Share your age:
"You will not catch me doing this, for the life of me. I have had people beg me. I have had people swear they're never going to share it with anybody else. No. I clearly look young, so that's already somewhat of a disadvantage in a corporate environment because people do tend to judge and think, Oh, you have your whole life ahead of you.
"No. You're not passing me up because of my age. If I'm qualified for the job, that's all that should matter," Valerie said.
2. Harp on your mistakes:
"You will not catch me harping on a mistake I made. I will acknowledge it and I will provide you with a solution, but I am not going to harp on it.
"I learned that the hard way. I used to think like, Oh, I need to own my mistakes so people know I can take accountability. No. Because then they will harp on it too and hold it against you.
"Nope. Let's focus on solutions and move the fuck on," she said.
3. Be too personal:
"Do not be too personal," Valerie warned. "Sharing too much does not do you any good at any point in your career. Especially when you know that you're trying to move up [or] you're trying to establish yourself as a reputable person within a company. Do not overshare. It will only come back to haunt you."
4. Be humble:
"You will never catch me being humble ever again. I used to think being humble was going to get me far — people would appreciate me and say, 'Oh, she's nice,' but no. So many successful women I work with are far from humble and will literally make sure that when they enter a room, their presence is felt."
5. Stick around too long at company events:
"You will never catch me at company functions like happy hour or holiday parties for longer than an hour and a half.
"The truth is, people start drinking, stuff starts happening, and I do not want to be associated."
6. Be an extremist:
"I would not be an extremist. That means you are not over-the-top cheery — over-the-top everything. Or, on the other extreme, [don't be the person who is] not chatty, not talking, not sociable. Finding a balance is everything in the workplace."
7. And finally, mix personal and work relationships:
"This one is a little spicy, but I will not be introducing work people to my personal-life people. I have seen so many messy investigations come across my desk because people start cheating or not getting along, and it seeps right into work. That's the first place it goes."
Though these tips can apply to all employees within an office setting, Valerie shared that, in her experience, people who are early in their career development are most likely to make these mistakes. "It's easy to think that you want to be liked, so you will overshare some information or keep your accomplishments to yourself because you think your manager is consciously acknowledging them. Unfortunately, that isn't the best route and will sometimes put you in awkward situations," she said. Instead, she emphasizes the importance of working on how you can bring value to a team, and using this as a guiding tool for your actions.
After her series went viral, commenters weighed in with their own additions to the list. "don't engage in the gossip, but don't dismiss it either," one person suggested. "It's good to know what's going on but don't fuel the fire."
And "never make the mistake of thinking that HR is your friend," another person added, reminding others that HR employees are still people who work for the company, at the end of the day.
Meanwhile, many supported Valerie's tips by sharing their own experiences — like this person who said, "I got demoted because they found out I was 23 and in an assistant director role EVEN THO I AM QUALIFIED."
And another shared, "I've seen people hook up with coworkers, someone soil herself, fighting, crying, etc. and NO ONE FORGETS."
Valerie acknowledged that not every tip she has will work for every office. "Every workplace is different and every team you work with is different," she pointed out. "Find what works best for you without compromising your personal integrity."
"People can be really mean and catty in the corporate world. Don't be one of those people. Do try to find what you're comfortable with sharing, what boundaries you'd like to have when it comes to your colleagues, and stick to them."
It's all about "balance," she said. "Having a balanced approach is key. While this isn't a science, I do believe that sticking to being personable (relatable) without divulging ... your deep personal life is a good way to foster relationships at work."
"You have to remember that you're all there because you have a job to do. Your goal shouldn't be [becoming everyone's] best friend, but your goal should be to be impactful, intentional, and maybe even inspirational.
"You can only accomplish the aforementioned if you don't shrink yourself amongst your peers or managers but, rather, find your voice. After all, they hired you because they believe you are capable of doing the job, right?"
Do you have any other tips for navigating office life? Let us know your position and advice in the comments.
And if you'd like to keep up with Valerie, you can follow her on TikTok.