Whether or not you attribute recent cultural changes in the workplace to the rise of the Millennial generation, there’s no doubt that employers have become more accepting of many behaviors that were once considered career blunders.
According to research from Gallup, workplace change is coming at a “dizzying pace,” forcing employers to rethink how they manage people.
Before you rush out and get a Mohawk, or demand to set your own work schedule, it’s important to note that management practices and cultures vary across companies and industries. Consider your specific situation before taking action. But with that in mind, here are some workplace “taboos” that seem to be on the way out:
It has become completely acceptable to think of yourself as a business, not an anonymous cog in the corporate machine. Even if they have full-time jobs, entrepreneurial-minded pros are still promoting their personal brands by posting instructional videos online, having a personal website, speaking at conferences, giving code reviews, and so forth.
How do employers feel about such activities? Many companies welcome it; an employee who becomes a “thought leader” in a particular sub-industry or skill reflects well on the overall brand.
Pursuing Other Career Opportunities
Many employers have come around to the fact that their workers are always looking for their next job opportunity. While conversing with a recruiter within earshot of your boss still isn’t a good idea, it’s unlikely that you’ll be fired for appearing to be in demand.
“Dressing up for work and then disappearing for a few hours could send the subtle message that you’re looking,” explained Rick Brenner, a former software engineer and principal consultant with Chaco Canyon Consulting. “And that could give you an edge during salary reviews, especially if you’re a top performer.”
Job-hopping used to be considered career suicide, but with 42 percent of Millennials changing jobs every one to three years, employers simply can’t afford to ignore an entire generation of qualified, migratory workers. As younger tech pros are promoted into leadership roles, they’re bringing their job-hopping habits with them.
The days of being labeled a traitor or persona non grata for accepting a better offer are over. In fact, employers are encouraging workers to take charge of their own self-development and careers, and they understand that such growth sometimes leads those employees right out the company’s front door.
Depending on circumstances, though, the employee who leaves could very well come back, loaded up with new skills and experience that makes them more valuable. Firms recognize that fact, which is why the stigma of rehiring former employees is on the wane in many offices.
Having an Office Romance
Although employers don’t really like it, they’ve had to accept the fact that employees are going to socialize outside of the office… and perhaps even date their co-workers, said Joe O’Grady, professor of business and management for the Robert P. Stiller School of Business at Champlain College.
“Frankly, they don’t really have a choice when people work 50 or more hours a week,” he noted.
“Some companies may ask you to sign a ‘love contract’ and keep in mind that dating a subordinate is never a good idea.”
Given the impact of the political environment on everything from hiring practices and data privacy to the availability of grants, sometimes you can’t really avoid talking about politics when you work in tech. While navigating the topics can be tricky, sharing opinions or having work-related political discussions are no longer off-limits in many organizations.
Tattoos, Piercings and Far-Out Hairstyles
An employer can’t really hang onto a 1960s dress code without making employees feel oppressed or violating the law in some cases, O’Grady noted. That means the door is open to body art and more colorful styles—within reason. (Getting your whole face tattooed probably isn’t a good idea, still.)
It used to be that working a side job was frowned upon or even forbidden. But these days, employers actually encourage tech pros to build mobile apps or consult in their spare time. Such activities help build the tech pro’s reputation and skills, which can ultimately benefit their work at the company.
Setting Your Own Schedule
The idea of imposing set hours on knowledge workers is passé, Brenner said. “People want to work whenever and wherever they want… While some managers have trouble dealing with it, there’s not a lot of inflexible organizations left.” The ability to set more flexible hours is a standard perk at organizations that want their employees’ work habits optimized.