Odds are good that you’re doing smart things to proactively manage how you present yourself at work: writing concise emails, speaking up in meetings, and trying not to make your sentences sound like questions. But when you’re in the first phases of your career, sometimes understanding office etiquette can feel as intricate as a game of late-season golf.
But here’s some great news: there are many things that we stress about at work that can be re-classified as not-worth-your-sanity issues. Here, 10 common workplace worries that you can swiftly brush off your shoulders, that way you can conserve your energy and get back to the important stuff (aka being a rockstar).
1. Not getting a “Good job!” email for everything you turn in.
High school and college primed us to expect that going above and beyond would earn us gold stars for our performance. In the workplace, it’s great to receive positive feedback. But if you didn’t receive a “Good job!” email, don’t assume your boss didn’t like what you turned in. Rather, assume your boss thinks you’re doing a good job—she’d tell you if you weren’t.
2. Leaving the office for lunch.
If it’s in your employment agreement that you have an hour for lunch, enjoy it! Resist the urge to grab something from the salad place on your nearest corner and bring it back to eat at your desk. Leaving to eat in a nearby park or a pretty public atrium will give your brain some time to recharge; if you take a walk, you’ll also get the benefits of fresh air and exercise.
BTW, eating lunch at your desk may not be giving off the deeply dedicated, ambitious vibe you think it is: it may make you seem harried or like you can’t manage your workload.
3. Someone looked at you the wrong way.
This one is hard. Whether you’re at your first job or your fifth, you constantly need to remind your brain that if someone gives you a weird look, it’s probably not about you. Who knows what that person’s morning was like? Perhaps they’re not feeling well, their kids were driving them crazy, or they’re just generally feeling like all sharp edges. Who knows? It most likely has nothing to do with you.
4. Your boss lightly snapped at you.
See above. If you can’t think of any reason why your boss would be displeased with you (and don’t spend too much time analyzing: just a quick, “Did I royally screw up something up yesterday or today? No? Okay, then whatever.”), your boss probably has way more on her plate than you’re aware of, and you had the sore luck of being in her face at the wrong time.
5. Someone described your outfit as “sassy.”
You thought you were rocking office-appropriate street style, but someone made a comment intimating that what you’re wearing doesn’t make you look like a girlboss. If it truly didn’t occur to you that morning that your outfit might not be work appropriate, you can let the comment slide. (Generally, wouldn’t your radar go off if your outfit was at all racy?) Go through the day as you normally would, and then perhaps reserve that outfit for Supergirl-inspired outfit changes after work.
6. You need to leave 15 minutes early for yoga.
If you are good at your work, you are never late (or almost-never) late, and you consistently show that you care about the company, it is completely fine to leave 15 minutes early for yoga, your friend’s improv showcase, or dinner with your sister who is in from out of town. Just go: it’s 15 minutes!
7. You want to listen to your earphones.
If you do your best work with music (or you need white noise to focus with all the activity around you), it’s fine to have your earphones in. You don’t need to ask for permission; that move risks making you seem unsure of yourself. Just make sure your headphones don’t “bleed” sound.
8. Your colleague sends really short emails.
Short emails from someone senior to you can spark the same reflex that makes us want to analyze a guy’s text messages. Is he mad? But what does he mean?
It means your colleague writes short, fast emails. Try not to make a negative story out of it. But if you had question in your email that didn’t get answered, seek the person out for more thorough, face-to-face guidance.
9. You carry a little purse with you to the bathroom one week every month and you feel like everyone is watching.
Everyone is not watching. And if they have noticed and put it together, they’re dealing with the same dilemma: how does one discreetly bring tampons into the bathroom? If, by chance, someone sees you with your purse and says, “Oh, are you leaving?,” you can breezily touch your bag and respond: “No, I just had coffee/ an onion bagel/ this gross-tasting gum and I want to brush my teeth.”
10. The person who sits near you isn’t very friendly.
He’s uncomfortably quiet. Or you have a coworker who’s even a little icy. Don’t assume that he doesn’t like you, but don’t try to extract friendliness from him, either. Be cordial and exchange office pleasantries, and then get back to your next great idea.