Let’s Get Professional Here
If you’re here, you probably have a job you want to keep. So congratulations, that’s a bigger deal than you might think.
Maybe you’ve finally landed your dream job, and you want to make sure you don’t make any unprofessional moves to risk losing it. Or perhaps you’re not living that dream job life (yet), but hey, we all have to pay the bills.
Either way, some common bad habits make an unprofessional employee, and if you’re guilty of them, it’s time to change.
Bad habits die hard, right? Maybe. But they’re a lot easier to quit when you know what they are.
So to keep that dream job, to continue advancing in your career, and to keep the cash flowing, here are professional workplace behaviors you need to avoid for success.
I’m Great at My Job…I Don’t Need Professionalism
Sorry to burst your bubble, but if you think you don’t need to keep it professional just because you’re awesome at your job, you’re wrong.
While being really great at your job might let you get away with unprofessional behavior for a little longer, it’s bound to bring you down soon enough.
The truth is, in most fields, there’s a ton of competition, so no boss will want to settle for an employee that does their job great, but has a bunch of bad habits that put the company in a negative light and are just all around annoying.
So no matter how great you are at your job, unprofessional behavior will be noticed by your co-workers, clients, and bosses, and it can cost you big time.
In the rare scenario that you can keep your job despite some unprofessional behavior, it’s guaranteed you won’t be advancing any time soon.
Plus, being professional has more benefits than helping you keep your job.
The Cost of Bad Behavior
If you think unprofessional behavior won’t be noticed and the only one it affects is you, then think again.
Unfortunately, one person’s unprofessional actions hurt the entire company. And one bad hire with unprofessional behavior can cost companies an average of $15,000, so when unprofessional conduct costs a company, you can count on them noticing.
Unprofessional behavior costs more than money too.
The Impact of Bad Hire
We’re not here to say you have to be all good all the time, but when you’re on the clock, make sure you ditch these unprofessional behaviors:
Being Late Is for Losers
Strolling into work late all the time might not seem like a big deal, but people are noticing, especially if you’re strolling in late with the latte you grabbed from Starbucks.
Just as showing up late to work will annoy everyone you work with and for, being the last one to walk into meetings will get you noticed in the wrong way too. It’s hard to hide that you’re late to a meeting as all eyes are on you, and it’s a huge sign you don’t have respect for the company, meeting, or project that’s being discussed.
Luckily, this is one of the easiest habits to break; really there should be no reason not to show up to work on time every single day. To show up on time, try:
You can’t be late if you don’t show up at all, right? Maybe, but there’s no way your boss won’t notice how often you keep calling out.
Of course, life happens, and in every career, there will be sick days and personal days that have to be taken, and your boss will understand that. But if you’re calling out of work every week or so, it won’t be long before you’re shown the door.
Employers want reliable workers who show up when they say they will, and if you can’t do that, they’ll find someone who can.
While it might seem impossible for your boss to find out you’re not actually sick, a 2017 CareerBuilder survey found that 38% of employers checked up on an employee who said they were sick, and 26% fired workers with fake excuses.
Honestly, the solution here is just to stop. Calling in sick when you’re not is wrong. But, if things come up and you absolutely have to skip out on work even if you’re perfectly capable of showing up, make it easy.
If you’re going to skip out on work and you know ahead of time, make sure you catch up and complete everything you need to do, and be willing to stay late the next day to catch up on anything you missed. If the rest of the office isn’t scrambling to take care of your responsibilities while you’re out of the office, then your absence will be much less noticed.
Being a Negative Nancy
No one enjoys being around constant negativity and pessimism, it’s draining and downright depressing. Continually responding to projects or tasks with negativity, will show that you don’t want to put in the effort and work, and trust us, someone else will.
Complaining all the time will also quickly get you labeled as the office “negative nancy,” and that’s a label you want to avoid. Not only will negativity make everyone avoid you, and lower your job security, but it’ll keep you from a promotion too.
Being friendly with your colleagues and bosses is important, but it’s essential to know the difference between fun and healthy conversation, and sharing way too much information. Always talking to anyone who’ll listen about your relationship, health, or other personal problems is a sure fire way to get on everyone’s nerves.
Not only does sharing too much information show you’re not hard at work, but employers want to hire people who are master problem solvers, and going on and on about your personal problems might show that you’re not the world’s best problem solver.
Sharing too much information applies to politics also, big time. Talking politics can make people uncomfortable, and these discussions should be saved for outside of the office. Your political views might vary from your superiors, and unfortunately, if they’re overheard, you could lose your job.
And even if that’s not the case, you’ll likely enjoy your colleagues, and if your political chatter is constant, eventually someone will speak up about it.
If you feel you might be over sharing information at work, consider these important questions.
Too Cool to Be a Team Player
Having independence is important, and requiring little supervision will help make a fan out of your boss, but always being the lone wolf won’t do in a work setting.
Being a team player is such a big deal that Google dedicated a whole study to it, called Project Aristotle. They found that the more successful companies have great teams and that what matters most is not just who’s on a team, but how well the team works together.
Being a team player not only shows your boss you know what it takes to be successful and that you can excel in higher roles, but it ensures that your colleagues will be there for you when problems arise.
You know when you get an email and immediately think about how you’ll respond to it later. Well sometimes, later never comes around. If you forget to respond to emails often, then it’s a sign you can’t communicate.
Communication is vital to all relationships, and in business, it’s key to success. You need excellent written and verbal communication skills to ace an interview and land a job, but if you don’t practice good communication every day at work, then it will lead to problems.
Communication skills vary from being able to promptly and adequately respond to emails, to being able to attentively listen when others are speaking.
“I’ll do it tomorrow” can be tempting; we’ve all been there. But it usually backfires, and at work, you’re not the only one who suffers from your procrastination. While occasionally, putting things off until the last minute might even inspire productivity, if it’s happening consistently, your coworkers and team will be suffering.
Procrastinating on tasks that only you’re responsible for can go wrong too, but when you procrastinate for your part of a bigger project, your last minute scrambling might mean that the next steps in the project have to be completed more quickly. If your coworkers or higher-ups have to rush through their work because of your procrastination, they won’t be happy about it. And as soon as something goes wrong with a project you procrastinated on, everyone will be quick to turn the blame on you.
You’re a Mess
No, we’re not calling you a mess, but if your desk or workspace is a mess or if you’re sloppy in the break room, it’s time to stop.
Leaving a mess everywhere is immature, and at work, your moms not around to clean up after you. And on top of being immature, being messy and expecting others to deal with it makes you appear irresponsible and arrogant, which are two traits that won’t help you keep your job or excel in your field.
Taking Care of Personal Business at the Office
Everyone is guilty of the occasional social media peak or online shopping at work, but the office is for business, not personal.
If you’re checking out your Facebook feed or filling up your Amazon shopping cart every time your boss or coworkers walk by, it won’t be long before everyone thinks you never actually work.
And not limiting personal calls is another unprofessional behavior that will get you closer to losing your job. While you shouldn’t make calls on company time because you should…well…be working, you’re also risking your boss walking in and hearing something you don’t want to share.
Rolling Out of Bed and Straight to Work
Hitting snooze over and over again until the absolute last minute is a huge temptation, but it almost always means rolling into work with bedhead and a sloppy outfit.
You might think looking and dressing like a mess at work is no big deal as long as you’re doing your job, especially if it means you get more sleep, but it is. When you show up to work looking sloppy, it shows that you aren’t all that interested and have an “I don’t care attitude” and your boss will wonder if that’s how you feel and present your work too.
Consistently showing up to work without putting any effort into your hygiene or appearance, can lead to being passed over for a promotion, left out when it’s time to meet with new clients, and eventually being replaced with someone who cares.
And there’s more to just rolling out of bed and into work than your appearance. Not giving yourself the time to wake up and have a good healthy breakfast will limit your productivity and put a damper on your mood for the entire day.
Stashing Supplies and Padding Expenses
Stocking up on supplies from the office closet that you will use for work is being prepared, stashing supplies to use for personal needs is stealing. And, while your expense account is meant to be used, it’s only intended to be used for work purposes.
There’s no point in lying, keeping up with lies is stressful, and if you’re caught, it could cost you your job. Whether it’s about not finishing a project on time, misrepresenting your experience credentials, altering numbers, or taking credit for work you didn’t do, even if it helps at the moment, it’ll cost you in the long run.
Swear Like a Sailor
It seems like swearing in everyday language is becoming more mainstream, and throwing some profanities in your sentence is just a way to express a passionate opinion. But, you should keep it out of the workplace.
Even if you have a relaxed workplace culture and your colleagues don’t mind the occasional swearing, if heard by your superiors, it might rub someone the wrong way. Plus, it’s very likely that your boss doesn’t want someone who’s always cursing representing the company, especially when it involves communication with clients.
The occasional swearing isn’t a huge deal, but if you’re really swearing like a sailor try:
Losing Your Cool
Frustrating things happen at work; there’s really no way to avoid that. But, how you respond to those situations plays a big part in your role with the company. Throwing a tantrum or totally losing it when something frustrating happens shows you can’t handle pressure or responsibilities well, and no one wants an employee that can’t do that.
Wait, One More Question!
Wanting to understand instructions on a new task or project is important, but if you ask a million questions each time, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Asking unnecessary questions makes you appear as if you’re not self-sufficient or that you can’t handle the task or project.
Drinking on the Job
Some companies are very relaxed with their drinking rules. A beer at lunch or office happy hour is encouraged in some company settings, but if that’s not the case at your job, drinking should be 100% avoided. And, even if occasional drinks are part of your company culture, make sure to know your limits. It’s never a good thing to be known as the company drunk or be the one embarrassing themselves at a work event because of one too many drinks.
What If You’re Not the Unprofessional One?
If some of these unprofessional habits sound familiar, then the good news is now you know. And the first step to solving a problem is acknowledging and accepting it, so you’re well on your way. But, what if you’re stuck dealing with an unprofessional colleague that’s putting a damper on all your work days? It’s a tough situation to navigate, but following these steps should help.
Should You Ignore or Confront?
Some unprofessional business isn’t worth getting involved in, so if what your coworker is doing is something you can easily ignore or disengage from, that’s the quickest first move.
For example, if your colleague is always eating really loud snacks at their desk or telling office jokes you find uncomfortable, you can opt to use headphones to drown them out, disengage from them, and focus on your work. Or, sometimes not laughing at a colleague’s jokes might be enough of a sign for them to realize you’re not digging their humor. But, if the colleague is someone you have to collaborate with and can’t easily avoid, it might mean confrontation.
If you can’t avoid a colleague, before you step into confrontation mode, make sure the problem is theirs and not yours. Sometimes we overreact to small things, so before you call out your coworker for unprofessional behavior, make sure none of it is in your imagination. If your colleague really is being unprofessional to the point of impeding your comfort and productivity, be constructive when you confront them.
A great way to confront someone without things getting heated is by using “I” statements. Instead of saying something like “Your jokes make me uncomfortable, and they impede productive work time,” try something like “I feel uncomfortable when you make certain jokes, and I have trouble being productive when I’m distracted by them.” Using I statements increases the chances that your coworker will take constructive criticism to heart without getting upset and causing more problems.
Record Before You Report
Unfortunately, sometimes disengaging or confronting a coworker doesn’t do the trick, and you might have to bring the problem up to your boss or HR department. Before you do that, make sure you’ve noted the different times your coworker has engaged in any unprofessional activity. This way, your boss or HR department will see that the behavior is happening often, and you’ll seem credible in your reporting.
Reporting a Coworker Can Be Rough…
Filing a complaint about a colleague is a tough choice to make, and it’s not always the right move. Here’s how to help tell if it’s time to report.
How to Know When to Report an Unprofessional Colleague
1. When the Unprofessional Goes Against Company Standards
Companies don’t want unprofessional employees, so they put a lot of time and effort into creating company standards and making them readily available in company handbooks and professional policies.
If your colleague’s unprofessional behavior is seriously breaking company policy, then by taking action, you’re protecting yourself, others, and the company.
2. When Your Record Is Ready
We mentioned the importance of keeping track of unprofessional behavior. You don’t want to show up to your boss or HR department empty handed, so when you’re thinking about reporting someone, ask yourself if you have evidence and facts accounted for. If you do, then there’s a reason to make a case. If not, then you might just be overreacting.
3. When You're Protecting Client Relations
If unprofessional behavior is jeopardizing relationships with clients and leading to a loss in profit and deals, then you should step up and say something. Knowing a colleague isn’t upholding high levels of customer service and not trying to have the issue solved means you risk letting the company’s reputation fall, which in the long run means less job security for you.
4. When You're Protecting a Successful Work Environment
If an unprofessional colleague’s behavior is bringing other’s down, then you have the chance to keep them from slowing down the entire office’s productivity.
5. When You're Protecting the Safety of Yourself and Others
Sometimes unprofessional behavior can hurt the company and in the worst situations can lead to danger. If you notice unprofessional behavior that risks the safety of yourself or others, it’s time to report.
Kicking Unprofessional Habits to the Curb and Staying Employed
Whether you have your dream job or just can’t afford to lose the job you have, knowing how to identify unprofessional behavior and how to kick it to the curb is essential for success. If you’re guilty of these unprofessional habits, now is your chance to change. You can thank us later for all the good it brings your way!