30 bad habits that affect your career

By Adam Bisby, Espresso

Have you ever been passed over for a promotion, turned down for a raise, or worse, fired from a job? Bad things can happen to good employees, but sometimes a hard look in the mirror reveals what’s really going wrong in the workplace. Instead of blaming others, maybe your own behaviour is part of the problem. Here are 30 bad habits that can damage your productivity, relationships and reputation on the job.

You succumb to stress

Whether you’re under a ridiculously tight deadline or facing some serious financial backlash, resourcefulness, composure and confidence go a very long way at work. “You should be able to endure stressful situations without falling apart,” says executive recruiter Gerald Walsh.

You never take extended breaks

Vacations are fun, but they’re also important for your mental health and well-being. Plus, they allow you to reflect on work and what you want to do next. “Mini-breaks are great, but longer breaks (beyond a week) are much better at providing time to rest, recharge and reflect,” says Australian leadership expert and author Michelle Gibbings.

You don’t accept responsibility

Admitting and embracing mistakes and failures—in other words, taking responsibility for them—will make co-workers respect you more, not less. “To progress, teams and leaders must share the responsibility of risk,” says Adam Kreek, a British Columbia-based management consultant and executive coach. “An environment of shared leadership is psychologically safe, allowing failures to be discussed openly for the sake of team and organizational improvement.”

You don’t learn from your mistakes

After you acknowledge mistakes, it’s essential to learn from them so you don’t make the same ones again, as well as to improve workplace performance. Only then can you “move forward confidently, knowing your past failure is now a badge of honor. Your failure is firmly planted in your past, serving as a growth opportunity to better your present,” Kreek says.

You’re pessimistic

It’s only human to grumble or criticize once in a while, but doing so regularly will turn off your co-workers and your bosses. “Try to maintain a positive attitude even in the face of adversity,” says Walsh, the president and founder of Nova Scotia-based Gerald Walsh Associates. “You will be more fun to be around.”

You’re always late

Keeping your workmates waiting in meetings shows you consider your time to be more important than everyone else’s. “When you do that, you are also unconsciously saying to the person that you think you are more important than them,” Gibbings says. “Having a regular pattern of tardiness does nothing to enhance your reputation.”

You don’t listen

Listening to and trusting your boss and your workmates is essential to success on the job, Kreek says. “You must distance yourself from the opinions of people outside your team who do not see the full picture. The media, parents, friends, social media, and armchair quarterbacks all have opinions that can disrupt buy-in.”

You share things you shouldn’t

Because it can be offensive to your bosses and co-workers, using sexist or foul language, telling inappropriate jokes and stories, and making inappropriate use of email “should be avoided at all cost,” Walsh says

You make unreasonable demands

It’s a bad idea to make exorbitant demands about things like vacation, compensation, or working conditions, especially if you’re a recent hire or a younger worker. “It comes across as arrogant—a trait that is certain to limit your career,” Walsh says.

You never get bored

Boredom is often the root of some of the best ideas, Gibbings says. “It is in this ‘quiet space’ that your brain wanders, ponders and decides.”

Your body language is negative

“Non-verbal communication is so important,” Walsh says, citing limp handshakes and evasive eye contact as examples of behaviour that can be off-putting at work.

You’re all about quick fixes

While a quick fix may well be quick, it isn’t usually built to last. Employees who are going places “know the importance of looking at the entire system to find the cause of a problem, especially one that is ongoing and persistent,” Kreek says. “It’s best to deal with the cause of the problem, not just treat the symptoms.

You’re anti-social

Making an effort to be liked by your co-workers, and taking the time to show interest in their lives, is important in the workplace. “You must be seen as human, personable and empathetic,” Walsh says.

You’re overly social

Being likable is important, but some employees go too far. Constantly needing to be the centre of attention, for instance, can rub others the wrong way. “Find the right balance,” Walsh suggests. “Too much socializing can be a problem too.”

You rush around

Running from meeting to meeting or event to event can be exhausting, yet it often achieves relatively little. “At the start of each day, set clear intentions on what you want to achieve and write it down,” Gibbings suggests. “When it’s written down it is harder to ignore the task, than if it’s just floating around as a thought bubble in your head. These daily intentions also help to ensure you focus enough time on your health as well.”

You’re unreliable

Is your desk a mess? Do you tend to put things off? Disorganization, procrastination and missed deadlines can make you seem inefficient, complacent and careless. “If you are not sure if you have these leanings, ask others for feedback,” Walsh suggests.

You make things harder than they need to be

We often hear that setting big goals produces big results, but research shows that when goals are set too high, progress suffers. This is in part because small wins get lost along the way, Kreek says. “One strategy top professionals use to regain excitement for future goals is to look at the cluster of smaller benefits that were achieved, regardless of the main outcome.”

You can’t be trusted

Backstabbing, bullying and taking credit for other people’s work will quickly get you blacklisted, Walsh says.

You ignore the big picture

Instead of always being the one who dismisses new ideas, consider how they might successfully align with your company’s mission and goals. “If you do, you will relate better to senior management’s way of thinking,” Walsh says.

You don’t get enough sleep

Being well rested and fully alert helps you make better, more deliberate decisions, Gibbings says. “Your brain processes overnight, and you are far more likely to make better decisions early in the morning when your pre-frontal cortex is rested.”

You go over your boss’ head

Unethical or illegal behaviour notwithstanding, you should work out all problems with your boss directly, Walsh says. 

You share confidential information

Take extra care when discussing customers, employees, finances, strategy and salaries with anyone outside your company, especially while socializing or using social media. “Even if it’s not totally confidential, it is unprofessional to be discussing these matters with others,” Walsh says.

You’re always multitasking

As you switch from one activity to another, your concentration is disrupted. This ultimately makes you less productive, Gibbings says. “If you are sitting in a meeting and typing an email, you won’t be fully concentrating on what is being said. At the same time, each time you switch from one task to another your brain loses focus and then has to refocus, using up precious resources. Research shows that a person’s productivity dips by as much as 25% as they switch backwards and forwards between competing tasks. Highly productive people time-box their work day and ruthlessly manage their schedule.”

You won’t admit you don’t know how to do something

Asking how to best handle a task is a sign of strength, not weakness. “If you’re not sure what your boss asked you to do, tell them you do not understand,” Walsh advises. “You will also avoid mistakes and embarrassment.”

You’re not a team player

There’s nothing wrong with preferring to work alone, but the fact remains that team-based workplaces are the norm these days. “Don’t isolate yourself,” Walsh says. “Instead, develop strategies that will help you get along with others, such as active listening, encouraging input and showing respect.”

You always say yes

Being a “yes-worker” can make you lose influence, and imbalance your personal and professional lives. “A key part of avoiding burn-out and having the career you want is learning to say ‘no,’ Gibbings says. “That doesn’t mean you say ‘no’ without careful thought.  Rather, it’s about saying ‘no’ with consideration of others and compassion for them and yourself.”

Your personal hygiene is poor

Whether it’s your body odour, halitosis, smoker’s breath or dandruff, you’ll be avoided by co-workers if you are physically unpleasant to be around.

You dress inappropriately

It’s said that you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have—and if you dress like you’re hanging at home, you could end up there in a hurry. Likewise, inappropriate or suggestive attire “can create the wrong impression and be interpreted the wrong way by your colleagues,” Walsh says.

You gossip

Spreading gossip will quickly get you labelled as a problem by your workmates and bosses, Walsh says.

Your work goals are toxic

The over-pursuit of three toxic goals—money, status, and physical beauty—lowers satisfaction, removes energy, and reduces pleasant emotions like happiness, contentment, and joy, Kreek says. “It also increases negative emotions like depression, anxiety, fear, anger, and sadness.”


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