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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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Published on January 7, 2021

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

Some people see the trees for the forest, and some see only the forest, meaning they lack strong attention to detail. But even if you’re one of the people who take a macro rather than a micro view, true professionalism requires balancing both.

If focusing on the fine points is not your forte, you will benefit from training yourself to pay attention to details. You will profit by saving yourself time, effort, money, and credibility.

Why Training Yourself in Attention to Details Pays Off

You add value to your organization when you make the effort to ensure that you performed your work thoroughly and effectively. This is why job postings often list “attention to details” among the required skills.

When you present your supervisor or client with well-completed, high-quality work the first time, it maximizes your value and minimizes wasted time. Detail-oriented people are also more adept at catching mistakes that could lead to costly blunders.

Moreover, attention to detail is an indicator of possessing other in-demand employee qualities, such as organization, thoroughness, and focus. In some professions, such as accounting, engineering, medical research, and more, you can only excel if you have trained yourself to pay attention to details.

In other professions, possessing strong attention to detail is the very quality that will get you promoted to a position where you will be asked to consider the big picture.

Finally, if you are the “go-to” details person, everyone else on the team can relax a bit. They know the project is in good hands and will likely throw you more projects as a reward. This will ultimately lead to your advancement.

3 Important Aspects of Becoming More Detail-Oriented

Here are the 3 important things you need to learn if you want to remedy your lack of attention to detail:

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  1. Respect deadlines
  2. Understand the work-flow plan
  3. Build in time to mess up

1. Respect Deadlines

Deadlines lend all projects a finish line. One smart idea is to take the given deadline and work backward from it, calculating when your piece of the project is due. Then, if you stick to the proscribed schedule for completing the mini-projects that you have, you will never miss a deadline.

One important note on this: It is smarter to stick to the deadline and turn in work that merits a “B+” than to blow the deadline with “A” work. Chances are, through revision and suggested changes from others on the team, you can bring up your B+ work to an A later. But if you disregard deadlines, you will lose the respect of your boss and fellow teammates.

2. Understand the Work-Flow Plan

Your team is developing work in conjunction with other teams who have projects and deadlines of their own. When you grasp the whole work-flow plan, you may be able to either add insight to the greater project or to your own smaller piece of it that others at the firm will consider valuable.

3. Build in Time to Mess Up

You can expect that “what can go wrong will go wrong.” Don’t overpromise on deadlines. Something likely will mess up, but when it does if you built in the time to fix it, those around you won’t freak out.

Chances are, you already give your attention to several details. Take heart. You can do this! You can overcome your lack of attention to detail and become more detail-oriented.

For starters, consider this: Most people take the time and put in extra effort into the activities or undertakings that matter to them most. Training yourself to become more detail-oriented can mean adopting a similar pattern of behavior.

Apply the same attention you give to your appearance. Are you a meticulous dresser? Do you pay attention to how you pair patterns and colors, and how you accessorize a particular outfit?

This is the same system to use when you lack attention to detail with your work. Give every item careful consideration so that each one contributes to the perfectly pieced-together whole.

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Assemble the ingredients the way you do when you cook. Cooking and baking from scratch require close attention to details as you measure and add each ingredient in sequence, and you time everything so that the meal comes together at the same time.

Similarly, your work product requires you to gauge whether all the ingredients have been added and that your final product is delivered on time.

Organize your business network like you do your social contacts. If you follow a broad base of friends and acquaintances on social media, you can apply similar skills to stay up-to-date on details associated with business acquaintances.

When you meet somebody who could be influential to your career or a resource for improving your skills, follow that person on social media. Respond to their posts to keep the lines of communication flowing.

12 Tips to Help You if You Lack Attention to Detail

Teaching yourself to take note of important details involves sharpening your perceptions and thinking ahead. The following tips will help you adopt these practices. Master these habits when training yourself to become detail-oriented.

1. Learn to Listen Well

You will pick up relevant information and needed nuance when you apply the skills of active listening. In conversations, train yourself to make eye contact, give your undivided attention to the speaker, and ask pertinent follow-up questions.

Training yourself to pay better attention to details in conversations includes learning to fully concentrate on what others have to say. If you find it hard, there’s no harm in taking notes on what they say.

2. Pay Attention to Social Cues

Make a point of noticing body language and facial expressions that provide insights into how others perceive a situation. Social cues offer details that give you an understanding of how words and actions impact others. The infamous character Michael Scott of the television show “The Office” epitomizes the consequences of not paying attention to others’ body language.[1]

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3. Follow Rules

Rules and protocols usually come about from lessons learned and are put in place to avoid further mishaps—whether from a safety or efficiency standpoint. If you’re given step-by-step procedures to follow, check them off as you go. Also, return to the rules at the project’s end just to make sure you adhered to them all.

4. Take Notes

Note-taking is a way to boost your retention and gives you something to refer back to when you need to keep track of pertinent details. You will also heighten your focus as you listen for relevant information. Review your notes shortly after the meeting or conversation and highlight the content that you intend to apply.

5. Prioritize What Needs Your Attention Now

When you have a full slate of work that demands your attention, take a few moments to sort assignments from most to least urgent. Keep a calendar, spreadsheet, or project planning software up-to-date with schedules and deadlines to help you stay organized.

As you tackle each urgent assignment, give it your full attention so no details are missed. Give yourself ample time—especially if you tend to be someone who waits until the last minute—as rushing can make you overlook important details.

6. Have a Detail-Oriented Assistant Check Your Work

If you lack attention to detail, then it makes sense to seek help from someone detail-oriented. If you have this option, take advantage of it. Two sets of eyes are better than one. Just be sure to credit your assistant for their help once the project is completed.

7. Learn the Rules of Writing Well

English is a difficult language, and grammar, punctuation, and spelling can all sabotage you unless you pay attention to detail. When in doubt, look it up. Free to use website services such as Grammarly can help.

8. Proofread Before You Hit Send

Nothing is perfect in its first draft. If you lack attention to detail, then put in the extra effort before submitting things. Before you send off any written work, check carefully not only for misspellings and incomplete sentences but also for improper tone, inappropriate colloquialisms, and inconsistent formatting. When your written communications are error-free, they will have their intended impact.

9. Minimize Distractions

It is impossible to stay focused when colleagues carry on conversations nearby or your mobile notifications ding you throughout the day. Do your best to limit distractions.

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If you are working where there is a lot of noise or side activity, try wearing noise-canceling headphones or seeking out a quiet corner. Disable your notifications when you need to focus, and resolve to only check them after you have completed your assignment.

10. Take Breaks

It may sound counter-intuitive to stop and take a walk, but it’s necessary. Walk away from the screen. Moving from one task to the next across the span of your workday is a recipe for brain fatigue. Give your brain a recess time when you come to a natural stopping place or after you complete one project and before you start the next. These short pauses are necessary for sorting through all the details needed for coming up with successful solutions.

11. Make Time for Reflection

At the end of a workday, take a few minutes to go over the day’s events in your mind. What was said or relayed in conversations? What is the status of the projects you worked on? What else occurred that you should pay attention to? Could there have been any details you might have missed that you should address tomorrow?

12. Keep a Detailed To-Do List

This simple organizational tool is your best ally for getting your work done on time and for paying attention to the details. If you are pressed for time (and who isn’t?), write your list to coordinate with dayparts.

Allot a certain number of hours to complete each task, do it, and then check it off. Nothing feels more rewarding than completing all the tasks on your list. But if you can’t finish them, then carry them over to the following day.

Final Thoughts

Details may seem small, but they can become a lot larger when they are overlooked. If you know you lack attention to detail, commit to training yourself to embrace the many facets that can help you consistently excel in the tasks you set out to accomplish.

When you begin to catch your mistakes in advance or apply the tidbits of information you gathered from paying close attention, you will know that you have trained yourself in the fundamentals of becoming detail-oriented. After that, you should start hearing the phrase “Great job!” more often.

More Tips on Boosting Your Attention to Detail

Featured photo credit: Cristina Gottardi via unsplash.com

Reference

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