Office Habits That Could Damage Your Career
Working in an office brings up a dynamic landscape of interactions that can be difficult to navigate. Whether you’re content in your current position, or looking to climb the corporate ladder, the way you interact with your colleagues in the office is vital.
“When I used to work for a large PR company, I can remember a few times when colleagues that were consistently blaming other people for their mistakes (and running to the boss over minor issues) got found out and were ostracised by the rest of the team.” – Lorraine Barker, Workfish
While every office is unique, there are some bad office habits that could eventually lead to damaging your career prospects at your current place of work, and any future opportunities. To ensure you don’t hamper your career, I’ve listed a few traits that you should avoid:
Refusal to Admit Mistakes
Everybody makes mistakes; that’s just part of life. However, what can really irritate coworkers are constant attempts to shift the blame, either onto another colleague or on an external issue. Not only is this an irresponsible attitude which will stall your own development, but it also turns your colleagues against you. They won’t feel that they can trust you to get a job done, or to tell/support them if things are going wrong–it gives the impression that you’re only in it for yourself.
It can be a fine line between leading and being led for a manager or supervisor in an office environment, especially if they have been recently promoted. When I say leading, I don’t mean putting up posters with motivational slogans on the walls or adopting a gung-ho (my way is always right) attitude to decision-making. You should be strong in the face of questions from team members and make sure they know who is in charge–don’t allow yourself to be led by others.
The Sloppy Eater
I once worked across from a guy who ate all day long. He ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the office and was continually snacking in between. Normally, this wouldn’t bother me (we all get peckish), but this particular man slurped, swirled, spat and gulped with every single bite, enough to make an entire row of cubicles resort to headsets or reserving conference rooms just to get some peace. Not only was this habit disgusting and distracting, it affected how everyone interacted with him on a professional level. It’s hard not to be annoyed by constant mouth noises, but then to turn around and try to talk about a client or internal project with the source of your annoyance, and some of that frustration and revulsion is bound to carry over.
Talking Too Much
This may sound like a harsh trait to have included, after all most people who talk a lot are just trying to be sociable, but it can be an immensely difficult trait for colleagues to deal with. Talking about your personal life is fine to do in the office, within reason, but if you’re constantly regaling your colleagues with your love life, home life, or office gossip you may be on thin ice.
No one likes a snitch. But no one likes a compulsive rule breaker either. Whether you’re a rule follower or leading the crowd at ducking out early on a Friday afternoon, you won’t gain any brownie points with coworkers for being the one to go running to the boss. That said, if not speaking up to a superior about a coworker’s (major) indiscretion could put you, or the company/project, in jeopardy, by all means, do what you have to (I recommend doing so as discretely and anonymously as possible).
Being Consistently Late
Few things will annoy employers and colleagues as much as someone who is consistently late. There will be times when you can’t help being late due to public transport problems, family issues or even just sleeping through your alarm (everyone makes mistakes). But most offices will have at least one person who thinks it’s all right to regularly swan into the office half an hour after everyone else without so much as an apology. That wouldn’t even be so bad if they stayed late to make up for it, but the people who are late are also often the first out of the door come 5 o’clock.
Rudeness Towards Colleagues
There is no excuse for rudeness in the workplace, and it will always come back to haunt you. You won’t get on with everybody and you’ll certainly bump into colleagues who annoy you with their habits or incompetence. But you should always try to remain in control. Do your best to never let your anger boil over into rudeness towards the people you spend most of your week with because it will create tension in the workplace, which is hardly conducive to effectiveness.
Not Being Able to Do Your Job
This one may seem obvious, but it’s important. There’s a difference between adapting to a new, more senior role, and biting off more than you could chew during your job interview. It will put undue pressure on your colleagues if you are constantly asking them questions that you should know the answer to, or being unable to juggle your various duties. To a degree this is understandable, but make sure you don’t oversell yourself and your experience during an interview (either for an internal promotion or a completely new job) because it won’t be long before you’re found out.
Not Dressing Appropriately
Taking pride in your appearance at work displays your respect for the job, your company, and your coworkers. By all means, if you are a Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, continue wearing hoodies and casual shoes. But if you’re not, and I’m assuming you’re not (if you are, I would love to know how you came to be reading this article), don’t come to work dressed like a slob or not having showered in a week. The office doesn’t need to be a runway either. Revealing or provocative fashion choices will not help you to be taken seriously. Always be aware of the dress policy and take cues from others, especially those senior to you.
Being on Your Phone
In the age of modern technology, pretty much everyone will have their phone or tablet on them while in the office. Depending on your company policy, the occasional text or a discreet (and short) phone call is usually acceptable, but don’t be the person who thinks their working day is merely an extension of their free time. Spending more time on the phone to friends than clients is extremely unprofessional and will eventually catch up with you.
There’s a fine line between exaggerating and blatantly lying. Do yourself a favor and stay away from both. Be confident in your abilities but don’t let that spill over into arrogance. I once had a coworker who took credit for the team’s work, and talking incessantly about his extensive network of connections. Don’t be that guy. You’ll regret it, as he did on the day he tried to introduce us to his “good friend the CEO,” who subsequently asked what his name was.
When you’re working in an office, you’ve likely reached an age where you are comfortable with yourself and no longer need acceptance from peers to feed your self-esteem. That, along with a drive for success, can lead you to forget that some traits are just annoying. Take a self-check of your workplace behaviors and do your best to ween them out of yourself as well your guilty colleagues. Making sure you aren’t guilty of any of these annoying traits could save your career.
Are there any habits not included here that annoy you? Do you have any funny anecdotes to share? Drop them in the comments so we can all benefit!
Featured photo credit: Ben Husmannvia flickr.com
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