Demonstrating Maturity at Work

How can employees avoid the appearance of immaturity that often sabotages career advancement?

By David Cox, SHRM-SCP | June 05, 2018

Introduction

The idea that younger employees automatically lack maturity is a broad generalization that is often groundless. I’ve seen many young employees who exhibit a sense of responsibility, a good work ethic, sound judgment, and a willingness to listen, learn, and further develop their skills. As they gain experience, they demonstrate steady improvement in their job performance.

I’ve also seen more experienced employees who demonstrate behaviors that could not be characterized as anything but immature (sounds better than childish). These behaviors include: Yelling, tantrums, pouting, fits of temper, breaking rules, gossip, and making excuses.

Sadly, it only takes one of these behaviors used consistently in response to work-related situations, for an employee to develop a negative reputation and be labeled as immature.

What drives immature behavior at work

Immature behavior at work is primarily driven by a lack of developmental learning that results in employees choosing ineffectual or inappropriate behaviors in essential job functions, routines, and work-related circumstances.

People do what works for them. If an employee has learned 1-2 mature, appropriate responses to a particular workplace/customer problem, those are the first responses the employee will apply to the situation. However, if neither of those responses results in solving the problem, the employee may choose a less mature behavior in response. If this immature behavior helps them get past the problem situation, even if it’s only effective one time, they will most likely use it again.

If you want to offer your experience as a basis for career advancement, you need to adopt the behaviors and practices that produce the best outcomes at work. When you adopt behaviors and develop practices that consistently produce successful outcomes, your experience is considered progressive, which is evidence of maturity.

If an employee stubbornly chooses behaviors and practices that produce inconsistent or problematic results, this lack of development creates an appearance of immaturity. Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many 40, 50, and 60-year-old employees who’ve earned a negative reputation for making such choices.

How to demonstrate maturity on-the-job.

One of the many things I’ve learned in conducting employee development seminars is that if you state something participants already accept as true, they’ll assume the statement is favorable to themselves even if their behavior at work appears to contradict this assumption.

For example: A 36-year-old employee with 15 years of experience on the job assumes he behaves in a more mature manner today than he did 15 years ago, and therefore is a mature employee.

I challenge such assumptions by providing participants with a list of specific attitudes, behaviors, and practices that serve as a standard to help employees consider what they’re doing (or not doing) so they can proactively choose to adjust and demonstrate greater maturity in the workplace. This list includes the following:

  • If an employer criticizes you, don’t respond in a negative manner
  • Walk away before getting into an argument with another employee
  • Take and follow instructions
  • Follow all work rules, regulations, and procedures
  • Do more than is expected of you
  • Respect the organization’s property and equipment. Don’t steal.
  • Arrive on-time every day you are scheduled for work
  • Have a positive attitude at work, even when you’re not in the mood or if things are going wrong in your personal life
  • Don’t gossip. It’s disrespectful to other employees, potentially harmful, and could prove damaging to your reputation.
  • Control your emotions
  • Demonstrate your ability to lead but know when it’s appropriate to follow someone else’s lead
  • Be reliable and trustworthy
  • Get along with other employees regardless of your opinion of them. You don’t have to like them, but you do have to be professional enough to be pleasant with them and work together.
  • Respect the chain of command

Conclusion

These suggested attitudes, behaviors, and practices offer opportunities for better outcomes at work and a positive impact on employee morale and customer relations. As employees seek career advancement, they are well-served by measuring their present behavior against an objective standard, making necessary adjustments, and building a reputation as mature employees that any employer would want to promote and advance.

Up next: How to Become an “Employer of Choice”

David Cox

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