Meetings of The DamnedWelcome to Neverland, Part 1. This week we’re going to discuss a few things you should never do in a business environment.

A brief disclaimer: as should be obvious, “never” is a powerful concept. Sometimes one must take unwise or unprofitable actions because there is simply no other choice. However, keep in mind that the behaviors being discussed here—with a very FEW exceptions— should only be endured under extreme duress. As in, “do this or you’re fired” duress. And should you find yourself facing down that kind of ultimatum on a regular basis, you might consider looking for a new job. Employers who toss around such threats usually have extremely high employee turnover, and ultimately wind up firing their employees as fast as they can be replaced— because businesses like that consider their employees expendable and disposable. If you find yourself stuck in such a situation I would suggest you start planning to abandon ship on your own terms before you get suddenly and unexpectedly tossed overboard. If possible, have a pre-arranged lifeboat waiting to ferry you to another (better) ship on the horizon. It’s much less traumatic than walking the plank at swordpoint and anxiously treading water, waiting for another ship to come along.

I know change is scary, and changing jobs can be a huge pain in the ass. But I suggest nothing is worse than living in daily fear of being inexplicably told to clean out your desk then ignominously escorted off company property by security. Some companies callously believe jettisoning their employees is simply part of doing business and institutionalize such practices as part of their general policy. Bottom line: if you don’t think you deserve such treatment, don’t build your career around such places. Because when the wheel spins around (and it ALWAYS spins around) your turn will come at the bottom and you’ll get booted out the door, same as everyone else.

Here are a few “nevers” to start the ball rolling:

NEVER work for free.

If you are willing to do so, someone will always be willing to take advantage of it. So unless you are voluntarily dispensing charity, don’t give your time, effort, and skill away for nothing— it almost never pays off.

NEVER allow someone else to take credit for your work.

Not even if that someone is your direct superior, and believes it is your job to make them seem smarter, more creative, or more talented than they actually are in the eyes of your mutual superiors. Don’t sabotage them for trying to do so; but don’t sell yourself short, either. Remember: the people who take undue credit for your creativity and hard work today are the same people who will resent you for knowing the truth about them and who will get you fired for it tomorrow.

NEVER accept less than you’re worth in exchange for promises of eventual rewards sometime in the future.

“I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a Hamburger today.” Uh, right… SURE you will. You see this a lot in job listings seeking “entry-level, recent graduates, eager for experience.” Translation? “We really can’t afford to pay you what you are worth.” Often these companies pad their ranks with oily-tongued middle-managers who promise workers all sorts of future rewards in exchange for accepting a pittance today. When the job is done and it’s payback time, expect the company to reward the middle managers for suckering you into doing all that work for unfair wages, and to replace you with some poor new sucker.

NOTE: it is important to be honest when assessing one’s actual worth to an organization or company. The unemployment lines are full of people who haughtily stomped out of their former workplace the instant they suspected their corporate superiors underappreciated their awesome value to the organization, or the moment that management supposedly asked too much of them. When judging such matters, park your ego at the door and ask yourself the hard questions: how good are you REALLY at your job? How easily can you be replaced? How much should someone in my position REALLY expect to be paid for the work I do? Far too many people overestimate their own corporate value or have unrealistic expectations of renumeration (salary, benefits) that simply don’t make sense in the current corporate climate.

Also, some companies are run by egoistical tyrants quite willing to cut off their noses to spite their face. To such people, it doesn’t matter HOW VALUABLE you are, or how irreplacable… they’ll happily sack you on a whim, then expect everyone else in the company workforce to somehow soak up the loss. Inefficient and impractical, sure… but it’s how they roll.

(To be continued)