Chicago Tribune – Business
By Jacquelyn SmithForbes
October 15, 2013
Bad Habits That Can Cost You Your Job
We all have bad habits. Perhaps you procrastinate, gossip or lack punctuality. These negative behaviors don’t necessarily make you a terrible person-but as an employee they can reflect poorly upon you, and even cost you your job. “A single bad habit is not likely to get you fired immediately, but the cumulative effect of the bad habit over time can,” saysDr. Katharine Brooks, executive director of the office of personal and career development at Wake Forest University and author of You Majored in What? Mapping Your Path from Chaos to Career. “People might notice one bad habit, and it preps them to notice other faults or problems.”A bad habit can also lead to isolation or shunning in the office, which can affect everything from your performance evaluation to your ability to do your job, she says.
In Pictures: Bad Habits That Can Cost You Your Job
Rick Myers, the founder and chief executive of Talent Zoo,a site for marketing, advertising and digital professionals,agrees that bad habits can destroy one’s career. But, he says, the most unfortunate part is that “people rarely realize they have these habits.”
“One of the best pieces of advice to give to someone who wants to advance in their company is to become more self-aware and be sure they are practicing habits that will be of value to the company,” Myers says. Here are 14 bad habits that can cost you your job:
Misrepresenting your credentials or intentionally plagiarizing, lying on time sheets or billable hours, misusing expense accounts or abusing company credit cards,stealing the kudos for a co-workers’ accomplishments, or otherwise robbing your employers blind can all cost you your job. “The surest way for any of us to bring our career to a sudden and miserable end is to have the habit of hedging the truth and lying in ways small and large,” says Ann Kaiser Stearns, Ph.D., psychologist and best-selling author of Living Through Personal Crisis (Idyll Arbor Press, 2010). “Dishonesty is a slippery slope with a devastating crash waiting at the end,” she adds. “Whether we work in business or banking, academia or the army, publishing or philanthropy, housing or health care, the marketplace or the ministry, if we lack integrity and betray our employer, we don’t deserve to keep our jobs.”
“This habit can seriously hurt you in a work setting,” Brooks says. “If you’re one of those folks who believes that you do your best work at the last minute and put off projects or assignments until the day (or hour) before they’re due, you may not be aware of the impact your habit is having on your co-workers.” If your last-minute rush requires others to work quickly, you will likely anger them, and you’ll be the first one blamed when a project fails or isn’t completed on time.
So many of us habitually gossip, whine or complain. But do any of these too often and your job could be on the line. “These all lead to the same end result: you become a headache for your manager,” says Amy Hoover, president of Talent Zoo. “Your boss is likely responsible for ensuring her teams are contributing to positive morale and anyone on the team who is counterproductive to that reflects poorly on her,” she adds. “Negative employees are often referred to as ‘cancer’ by upper management for good reason: they will eventually be cut out.” A good approach if you have a complaint is to speak with your manager directly, in private. Never drum up your co-workers for support first.
If you constantly arrive late to work, or return late from breaks, it displays an attitude of complacency and carelessness, says Roxanne Peplow, director of student services at Computer Systems Institute. “So be prompt or even a bit early to show that you are time conscious and that you do care about your job and other people’s time, as well.” Hoover agrees. “Whether you intend to or not, arriving late shows disrespect to the social contract of the office place, as well as your co-workers who do make an effort to arrive one time.” In Pictures: Bad Habits That Can Cost You Your Job
Poor e-mail communication
This can involve everything from not responding to e-mails to not being aware of how you come across in an e-mail. “You might be perceived as abrupt or rude, or too long-winded or wordy,” Brooks says. If you have a bad habit of taking too long to check or respond to e-mails, you could miss important meetings or deadlines, cause delays or confusion, or come off as unprofessional.
Social media addiction
Another common path to job loss is the habitual obsession that many employees have with social media, Stearns says. “If you said going onFacebook twenty times a day doesn’t interfere with your work, you’d be lying.” Some companies have taken measures to monitor or limit their employees’ social media use, while others have blocked these sites completely. So beware: spending too much time on social media or other websites not related to your work can cost you your job.
Bad body language habits
Do you routinely roll your eyes? Do you have a weak handshake? Do you avoid making eye contact? These could all be career killers. “People must understand that actions speak louder than words,” Peplow says. “And the majority of our communication is done through non-verbal cues.” Co-workers, managers or clients may perceive some of your non-verbal communication habits as rude or unprofessional-and these things could eventually have a significant impact on the advancement of your career.
If you’re always distracted-a bad habit that plenty of employees possess-you might fail to properly assess the culture of the workplace, which can be damaging to your career. “Each workplace has its own culture and style, whether it’s the official or unofficial dress code, the social atmosphere, or the official and unofficial hierarchy,” Brooks says. “Failure to observe the culture and fit in can create tension or mark you as different, and potentially less desirable.” You’ll also want to be aware of personal habits that might be offensive or distracting to co-workers. “Working in an office setting demands that you be sensitive to coworkers and not behave in a manner which distracts them from their work or makes their work setting uncomfortable,” she adds. “This can run the range from body odor, bringing strong-smelling food to your cubicle, playing music too loudly, telling inappropriate jokes, or using your speaker-phone to make calls.”
“When you hear someone using poor grammar, slang or profanity, it translates into believing that person to be uneducated,” says Peplow. Remind yourself that you’re not at home or speaking with friends at a social gathering. Be on point by always assuming your boss is in earshot.
Lone wolf syndrome
Have a habit of always wanting to do things on your own? That won’t work in the office. “While independence is good in some situations or when concentration is needed to get a project done, generally people who are team players experience more success at work,” Brooks says. “Team-playing involves a lot of positive behaviors including giving credit where it is due (that is, not taking credit for work which a colleague did), helping others when possible, doing tasks that aren’t necessarily in your job description, et cetera.” If you’re not seen as a team player, you won’t have the support of your colleagues when problems arise.
If you lose your temper, it is assumed that you cannot work well under pressure or handle responsibilities well, Peplow says. “Practice stress reduction techniques like mediation or deep breathing exercises, and never bring personal problems to work.”
Bad habits like disorganization, wasting time, and being too talkative can make you an extremely inefficient worker. “You may not realize it, but many of your co-workers are there to work, not socialize, and they may not want to be rude to you by breaking off from personal conversations,” Hoover says. You don’t want to become the person your colleagues avoid working with-so, keep the water cooler talk to a minimum, keep your desk organized and don’t spend too much time on nonwork- related tasks.
Speaking without thinking
If you’ve got ‘foot-in-mouth’ syndrome, you must control it in the workplace. Saying something inappropriate in a meeting or an e-mail can be detrimental to your career.
Lack of manners
“The most important things are what we learned when we were little,” Peplow says. When you ask for something, say ‘please.’ When someone gives you something, say ‘thank you.’ If you don’t know someone, introduce yourself. If you need to interrupt someone, say ‘excuse me.’ “Manners are important, so don’t be rude. And above all, if you don’t have something nice to say…don’t say anything at all,” she says.
These are just a few bad habits that can cause you to be fired, turned down for a job offer, or looked over for that promotion, Peplow says. “Take a look at yourself and ask others about your habits.” And if you do receive any feedback, take it seriously, Brooks adds. “Try to listen to the concern, and take some time to own it without defensively dismissing it.” “Much of this comes down to communication,” Hoover concludes. “We all have little annoying habits, and top-down communication is really key [in making employees aware of their bad habits]. From there, it’s up to the individual to correct them.”