Common Habits That Make You Look Unprofessional at Work

Common Habits That Make You Look Unprofessional at Work

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It may not be noticeable to you but you might have bad habits which can make you look unprofessional at work. While it is common to have habits which are hard to shake off, it is important to take notice of them especially when you are a working professional. This is typically because having bad habits at work can negatively impact your colleagues and work performance. Sometimes, all we need to do is to realise and improve ourselves to be better. Take a look at some of the common unhealthy habits you should be aware of:

Showing Up Late for Work

You are unable to predict when you will show up late for work but it can happen. Reasons like your car inconveniently broke down in the middle of nowhere, getting stuck in a traffic crawl, or a delayed train due to technical glitches are some of the reasons heard before. When such mishaps do occur, be prepared to inform and apologise to your boss about your tardiness. But if you deliberately dilly dally your way to work, then you are in for trouble.

It is highly unprofessional to come to work late as it shows your lack of responsibility and respect towards the organisation. As a working adult, it is good to be on time and set a realistic buffer time for your commute to work. If you are not a willing early riser, set your alarm to 30 minutes earlier than expected to give you some room to hit the snooze button or to go through the traffic. Planning what you are going to wear to work the night before also helps so you don’t have to worry about ironing your clothes the next day.

Being Negative at Work

Everyone has bad days and it can take a toll on you, be it at work or in your personal life. The key here is to balance your personal life with your work life. Not everything you struggle with at home should be brought through the office doors. Most people prefer to mask it by staying pleasant whereas others are not good with coping with the stress and anxiety faced. However, there are people who do not care about what others think, so they bring their sulky mood to work too.

Avoid wearing your heart on your sleeve. Showing your unhappiness or displeasure to your superiors and colleagues will only paint a negative picture of you, making them feel uncomfortable. If you find yourself getting easily irritated or hot tempered, practice calming down by taking short deep breaths for 30 seconds. This will help you reset and become less irritable.

Using Mobile Phones During Work Hours

Living in a technologically advanced era means mobile phones are an essential part of an average individual’s life. At the office, it is best to keep personal phone calls to a minimum if not, none at all until after office hours or during lunch breaks with the exception of emergency calls. As for texting or replying to emails via mobile, it is fine if you need to do so for clients and work group chats.

Most companies allow the use of mobile phones at work. It is only a case of employees practising self-discipline and completing their tasks at hand, on time. With that said, do not use your mobile phone in meetings. It is inappropriate and rude. Stay engaged and pay attention to the speaker in the meeting room, no one likes being ignored during a conversation or presentation.


In a professional environment, swearing and using profanities in your vocabulary is considered taboo, but an open-culture work setting may allow it as long as it does not offend another person. Regardless, using bad language at work is still generally viewed as inappropriate and unprofessional even when used sparingly. Be wary if you hold a senior position in your organisation, you will not want your subordinates to follow by example if you make swearing a habit. Most human resource departments will take disciplinary action on employees who cross the line with behavioural issues so it is best to omit the habit for your own sake.

Arriving Late for Appointments

Waiting for a latecomer to join in a meeting usually disrupts an individual’s schedule. Time is precious and if you get delayed throughout the day, it will not benefit you or the other party. Respect others and your own self by being on time. If you are going to be late, give a heads up to the chairperson or apologise when you arrive. Make it a point to arrive for meetings on time. Your attitude and actions show how much the meeting means to you and you do not want to look like you are not bothered; especially if it is a job interview.

Procrastinating at Work

Being easily distracted, uninspired and delaying work tasks causing missed deadlines or poor quality results are often the outcome of procrastination. Everyone procrastinates but if it happens too often, you need to discipline yourself. Pick out your distraction factors at work and limit their presence. Be wary of social media sites and messaging apps with active group chats as they too can be contributing factors.  

The temptation to procrastinate tends to occur when you feel the pressure to perform a mundane or difficult task. Motivate yourself when you feel bored, give yourself a goal each day to finish and stick to it. You can even get a helpful colleague to be your moral compass and tell you off gently when you are not focusing at work.

Being a Wet Blanket

There is nothing wrong with giving feedback and complaining if the situation calls for it. Do not spend days grumbling about every minor issue that happens at work. Nagging is also a big no-no as a professional and it’s a behaviour commonly frowned upon in most workplaces. If you find yourself having the urge to gripe, stop and think before whining out loud. It could save you the trouble and avoid getting your colleagues angry or annoyed at you.  

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Address issues with your boss. Your work life will be better if you stay positive by being grateful towards what you have accomplished in your career. Learn to be more appreciative towards your colleagues and organisation. Take comments from your superior as constructive criticism and when given the chance to improve, grab that chance!

Poor Hygiene

Maintaining good personal hygiene at work is important. Dress smart, groom often and smell good.  No one likes a person with body odour or bad breath. If you find yourself having to tell a fellow team member about his or her personal hygiene issues, remember to be honest yet compassionate. Treat your words with sensitivity and make sure you are not doing the same.

Poor hygiene is considered unprofessional because it has the ability to affect clients and customers perception. It is important to improve on it instead of ignoring it. Moreover, studies have shown that physical appearance has a significant impact towards getting recognition and promotion at work.

Reacting to Passive Aggressiveness

Have you encountered a colleague who belittles you or your other colleagues from time to time? How about the kind who loves dishing out gossips, deliberately compromising group tasks at the expense of others, or sucks up to your boss? This is one of the many signs that you are dealing with a person with a difficult and damaging behaviour. Often times, this type of person will affect his or her level of professionalism including the overall department or company work culture.

While there isn’t a clear cut way to deal with passive aggressive individuals at work or in life, the best way to handle it is to ignore. Ignore the taunts and do not give a reaction which can cause conflict. Stay calm and choose your words wisely if you are confronted; especially when you are working together as members in the same team.

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