There are so many important things we can learn from famous people. For example, the key to being called "brave" is allowing yourself to be photographed without makeup. And better health is easily obtained by eating foods no one has ever heard of prepared by chefs no one can afford.

But along with all that sound, helpful advice, celebrities also have a knack for teaching us what not to do, particularly in the workplace.

Consider, if you can stand it, Kanye West. The rapper, fashion designer and narcissism-enthusiast was recently excoriated for comments he made after the Grammy Awards.

The musician Beck won Best Album of the Year for "Morning Phase," beating out, among others, Beyonce. That apparently rankled West, who went on a post-awards rant and said: "If they want real artists to keep coming back, they need to stop playing with us. ... Beck needs to respect artistry, and he should have given his award to Beyonce."

There is, of course, a huge difference between the world of famous musicians and the working world we inhabit. Nonetheless, it's fair to say that my "Be a decent human being" mantra could easily be modified – maybe even made a bit more hip – by saying, "Don't be a Kanye." DBAK, for short.

The rapper's sore-loser approach and unwillingness to celebrate another artist's achievement is off-putting to the extreme, regardless of his intentions to advocate for another artist he respects. Transfer this kind of attitude to a regular work environment, and you have people who get bitter about a co-worker's promotion or form cliques that let jealousy and envy divide a workplace.

That gets everyone nowhere. Few of us have the ego of your average Kanye, but his behavior is still an object lesson that humility is the better path. Don't be a Kanye, people.

Another famous person unwittingly teaching us a workplace lesson is Vice President Joe Biden. Last week, during the swearing in of Ash Carter, the new secretary of defense, Biden was standing behind Carter's wife when he put his hands on her shoulders and leaned in to whisper something in her ear.

This is not the first time the avuncular VP has been called out for invading a woman's personal space, and it prompted a piece on The Washington Post's website headlined: "Why Joe Biden should probably stop being so touchy-feely."

That story read in part: "Biden is a creature of his time; that's not so much an excuse as it is context. He is folksy and always (overly) familiar ... But as a man who prides himself on his work on women's issues, Biden might heed his own advice. He said that attitudes are changing about what 'constitutes appropriate behavior.' That should probably apply to Joe Biden's interactions with women too."

We all, regardless of gender, need to be respectful of other people's boundaries. Sometimes you try to shake someone's hand and the person says, "Forget that, I'm a hugger!" then gives you a big embrace. I'd like to say that's fine, as it's clearly well-intentioned, but the reality is that just because you're a hugger doesn't mean I'm OK with being hugged.

Jacqueline Whitmore, author of "Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work" and an etiquette expert I've interviewed in the past, sent out an email relating to Biden's hugging/close-talking problem.

She advised workers to: respect other people's space; use a three-second rule if you do hug, just to make sure the hug is brief; and "when in doubt, leave it out."

That last one is probably the best. As Whitmore wrote, "You'll never go wrong with the good old-fashioned handshake."

Last on the list of misbehaving celebs is NBC News anchor Brian Williams, currently on a nonvoluntary hiatus for inflating stories of his personal experiences to Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade-balloonlike proportions. Williams appears to have lied about – or at least dramatically misrepresented – his experience aboard a military helicopter in Iraq, saying the chopper came under fire when it didn't.

Other tales he has spun over the years have now come into question as well, demolishing Williams' credibility and raising serious questions about whether he'll be allowed to return to the anchor chair.

The workplace lesson here is quite simple: Don't lie. Ever. Never, ever, ever.

Don't try to fib your way out of a problem, don't amp up your resume to make your achievements sound more impressive and don't try to wow your employees with tall tales of life in the corporate trenches.

If you lie, there is a very good chance you will eventually get caught. And once you get caught, you're branded a liar, and that's a hard reputation to shake.

Regardless of your skills, integrity remains your most valuable asset at work.

Don't be a Brian Williams.

Don't be a Joe Biden either.

And for the love of God, PLEASE don't be a Kanye West.



Rex Huppke writes for the Chicago Tribune. Send him questions by email at or on Twitter @RexWorksHere.


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