Professional Development

8 Bad Habits That Make You Look Unprofessional

Written by Kate Lopaze

Everyone has some bad work habits. You might be the most punctual, inoffensively friendly person around, but there’s always something that occasionally causes colleagues to roll their eyes. It’s a fact of life—none of us is perfect. However, recognizing these bad habits, and working hard to correct them, can do a lot to keep your work reputation as high as possible. Here are 8 bad habits that make you look unprofessional.

1. Being a Debbie Downer

You know the type—the other shoe is always about to drop, the successful completion of one project just means another one is around the corner, everyone else is just so incompetent all the time. You may not even realize how much you’re complaining, but it’s definitely something to keep an eye on.

2. Procrastinating

Counterintuitively, multitasking makes it so much easier to procrastinate: “I’ll do these three things now, and that other thing later.” Then that fourth thing gets pushed back, and pushed back until it’s a week later and you’re still not done with it. This is especially problematic if the delayed task is something needed by someone else, because then it makes you look undependable.

3. Overpromising

Overpromising is dangerous, because either you set yourself up for an onslaught of extra work, or you fail to deliver, which means your professionalism takes a hit. Colleagues and bosses need to know they can depend on you to deliver on time, and part of that is knowing the limits of what you can and can’t do within a certain timeframe.

4. Trying to please everyone

Being a people-pleaser is an impulse that comes naturally to a lot of us…after all, you want everyone to think you’re awesome at delivering awesomeness. But that can easily shift over into Pushoverville, where people take advantage of your eager nature. It can also come off as sucking up, or cause frustration when you’re trying to placate one boss who wants things one way, a colleague who wants them another way, and someone from a different department who needs things done a third way. It’s much better to use your judgment find the best way to handle something, and make sure that everyone knows why you’re doing it your way.

5. Swearing like a pirate

Many workplaces have become more casual in dress and attitude in general, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to swear up a storm, especially when you’re talking about work. Everyone has slip-ups when they’re especially frustrated, but if you drop the f-bomb in front of coworkers more than a few times, it shows a lack of professionalism and care about how you present yourself in public. In terms of self-restraint, think broadcast network standards, not HBO.

6. Running late

There’s always a reason—traffic on the commute, dog ate the car keys, your favorite TV chef was showing you how to make bacon soufflés on the Today Show. Chronic lateness just never makes you look good, even if you have one of those jobs where it doesn’t really matter if you’re at your desk at 9:00 or 9:20. Being there on time (except in those times when there really is a terrible commute) shows everyone that you’re ready to get things done.

7. Making excuses

When things go wrong, don’t be that guy/gal who always has a bunch of excuses ready to go. Excuses sound exactly like what they are, and when you use them, everyone around knows it. If things go wrong, own it and resolve to move on, and people will respect your honesty and drive to get things right.

8. Being too flirty

Boundaries? What boundaries? Even if the flirting is harmless, you don’t want to run afoul of any sexual harassment policies your company has—especially if you don’t know the flirtee very well. Also, if it seems like you’re flirting to get ahead at work, that won’t endear you to your colleagues. Complimenting coworkers is fine, but try to keep it brief, friendly, and professional.

Do any of these sound uncomfortably familiar to you? If so, don’t worry—we all have stuff to work on when it comes to workplace behavior. And there’s always time to recognize, correct, and start fresh!

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.