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Office Habits That Could Damage Your Career

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:

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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.

Poor Leadership

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.

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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.

Office Snitch

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.

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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.

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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.

Exaggerating

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 Husmann via flickr.com

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Last Updated on April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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