When you read that headline, what was the first thing that popped into your mind? Was it a habit of your own that a co-worker or supervisor has criticized you for? Or, even if nobody has said anything to your face, do you have the feeling that your bad habit at work is holding you back from career advancement?
You could well be right. Certain behaviors in the workplace make higher-ups see you as less productive, irresponsible, un-serious, not suitable for dealing with the company’s clients or leadership, etc.
Top 10 Bad Habits at Work
These are the behaviors employers most often give as a reason to pass over an employee for a promotion or raise. Do you recognize any of them in yourself? Be brutally honest here; it’s the first step to making a change for the better.
- Tardiness — shift start, meetings, assignment delivery
- Abuse of company assets — time (that they’re paying you for), office supplies, computer activity
- Rude/inappropriate— interrupting people, dirty jokes, excessive swearing or street slang, getting in frequent arguments
- Unprofessional appearance — too casual/sexy clothes, lack of cleanliness/grooming, poor body language such as avoiding eye contact or weak handshake
- Uncoachable — taking constructive criticism badly, never asking for feedback on how to improve
- Incapacitated — coming to work sick or hungover, especially if it happens often because of too much partying the night before
- Negative attitude — badmouthing the job, the company or the people you work with, complaining about personal problems to co-workers
- Lying — if you messed up, own up; trying to pass the blame is irresponsible and immature
- Poor communication — not responding to emails, bad grammar, going your own way without keeping the team in the loop
- Distracting — inconsiderate of co-workers with loud music, strong smelling food, constantly putting your phone on speaker
How to Break a Bad Habit
Your bad habit may have hurt you in the past, but it doesn’t have to affect your future. Starting a new job lets you go in with a clean slate — and an improved work persona. Take these steps toward being free of your bad habit.
- Identify the cause. What makes you always late — exhaustion, procrastination, dislike for the job/task, something else?
- Acknowledge the reasons for change. If you’re late because you don’t like your work or co-workers, list what you’re gaining that will make it worthwhile. Procrastination is often rooted in fear of failure; tell yourself, “I got this!”
- Replace a bad habit with a good one. After completing steps 1 and 2, stop focusing on what you’re doing wrong and decide what you will do right. Instead of saying, “I will not be late,” say, “I will be 10 minutes early and use that time to get settled, plan my day, show the boss I’m the most positive, productive, promotion-worthy employee on the team.” Thus you build in the added benefits to your mental repetition.
- Remind yourself often. It’s called a habit because you do it automatically. To override it will take constant monitoring at first, until the new habit is firmly established. Set your alarm — or even your clock —10 minutes earlier to ensure that you won’t be late. Schedule motivational notes to be delivered to your phone at critical times during the day, such as “the early bird catches the worm.” Put a sticky note in a place you’re sure to see it, such as the bathroom mirror.
Stepping into a new work environment — where there are no memories of your past behavior — is the perfect opportunity to present yourself as an employee who’s ready to take the next step in your career. But even if you’re not changing jobs, changing a bad habit can still pay off (though you may have to do more apologizing along the way). And it’s definitely worth it to get the success you want!