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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 March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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