Seven common workplace myths

May 06 2014

By Julia Richardson – Workplace myths run rampant in the office. While some are based loosely on facts, others are simply speculation, and some are just plain false. While there are many myths, let’s take a look at six of the most common workplace myths. Chances are, you’ve heard several of these, and are probably guilty of repeating them.

Myth #1: You’re Entitled by the First Amendment to Say Anything
This myth is one that extends far beyond the workplace. There is a common misconception that the first amendment entitles you to say anything you like without recourse. This is not entirely true.

In reality, freedom of speech means the government can’t restrict your speech. This does not apply to your employer. You can get fired for what you say inside and outside of work. In other words, the government cannot punish you for what you say (threats aside), but your employer can.

workplace myths

Myth #2: Employees are Human Resource’s First Priority
While employees are of concern, HR’s primary function is to serve the business. This extends to helping employees, but since the primary focus is on the employer it is important to recognize that what’s best for one is not always best for the other.

With this in mind, another HR misconception is that what you tell HR is confidential. HR is not legally obligated to do this, and given that the primary focus is the employer, HR can share anything it thinks is of importance to the employer.

Myth #3: If Your Boss is a Jerk, He can be Fired
We’ve all experienced a bad boss. Unfortunately, being a major jerk is not grounds for termination. If jerk equates to harassment based on age, sex, race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation, however, this fact changes. While some protected classes vary by state, here is a list of protected classes on the federal level.

Myth #4: You Can’t Be Fired Without Warning
A lot of workplaces have a process that they go through to terminate employment. The exception to this is if you have an employment contract in place. Otherwise the steps taken (or not) prior to termination are an internal process.

From a legal standpoint, most states are “at will” states, which means that you can be fired for any reason at any time, just as long as the reason isn’t based on religion, sex, age, sexual orientation, national origin, or any other protected class within the state.

Myth #5: Getting Fired Results in Lost Unemployment Benefits
Most people think that they have to be laid off (by no fault of their own) in order to receive unemployment benefits, but this is not entirely true. Many states allow you to collect, even when fired. The reason for termination does matter, however. If it was due to harassment, theft, or misconduct that is intentional then you are not eligible for benefits.

Myth #6: Employers Can Only Confirm Employment and Dates
This myth is quite common, perhaps based on wishful thinking. Contrary to popular belief, employers are not limited to discussing your employment status at the company- past or present. Sure, some employers have a policy around what can and will be discussed, but legally they can give as many honest details as they feel appropriate.

Myth #7: Reviews Only Count if You Sign
Yet another dose of wishful thinking is the myth that employee reviews somehow don’t apply if you don’t agree with them. According to this theory, all you need to do is refuse your signature. In truth, whether or not you sign your review has no bearing on its existence. It may, however, reflect badly on you.

While some of these myths are half-truths and others are outright lies, they are all too common in the workplace. It’s best to refer to your employee handbook for internal company policies.

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