Let’s be clear: You’re going to make at least a few mistakes at some point in your career. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a seasoned professional or a total rookie, work mistakes can and will happen.
However, it’s not just the big mistakes that you need to worry about making at work. It’s also your small, daily habits that can end up making or breaking your career. Little habits can slowly steer your career path off course and derail your goals for success.
Worst of all, you may not even realize that you’re doing them. So, in your best interests, here are six habits that you need to stop doing at work and how to fix them – stat.
Table of Contents
1. Badmouthing your coworkers or boss
We get it, your coworker is an incompetent fool who couldn’t logic his way out of a paper bag. That doesn’t mean you need to go around advertising that fact for all to hear.
Trash talking and being straight up rude to your coworkers can create a toxic work environment that affects everyone in the workplace. It can also be bad for business. Consumers who witness employees being rude to each other may form a negative opinion of the entire company, according to a 2010 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research.
How to Fix: If you have a beef with a coworker, talk to them about it in private. Never call them out in a public setting, such as a meeting or in front of a customer. This also goes for those passive-aggressive emails we’ve all wanted to send. You know, the ones where you want to call out your coworker while CC’ing everyone in your department? Resist the urge.
2. Apologizing for everything
Owning up to your mistakes can earn you respect from your coworkers. On the flip side, apologizing for everything – especially things that aren’t your fault – will only make you look meek and unconfident.
Another problem with apologizing too much? When you finally do make a big mistake at work, your apology won’t mean anything.
How to Fix: Learn how to rephrase your apologies. Can’t make an upcoming meeting? Skip the apology (“Sorry, I can’t make it”) and exchange it for: “I’m afraid that I can’t make the meeting.”
Explaining a minor hiccup in a work project to your client? Replace your apology (“I’m sorry it’s taking so long”) with “Thank you for your patience.” Little phrases such as these can make an enormous difference in how others perceive you at work.
3. Being lazy with your grooming regimen
If you’re one of the many guys who decided to grow out his facial hair for No-Shave November, then we salute you for your commitment to a good cause. What we don’t salute is an untamed beard that looks like Robin Williams’ character in Jumanji.
There’s a fine line between sporting well-groomed scruff and showing up to work looking like a total caveman. With the latter, you risk ruining your professional reputation and not being taken seriously at work.
How to Fix: Get on a regular grooming regimen ASAP and start treating your beard like the labor of love that it is. Pick up some beard care products and shape your beard into a glorious mane that is 9-5 appropriate.
While you’re at it, don’t forget to take care of your skin. If your face keeps breaking out all of a sudden, don’t shrug and say, “oh well.” Do something about it by getting on an acne treatment system. Even just a basic grooming routine can enhance your professional appearance and increase your confidence tenfold.
4. Expecting perfection
Look, being a perfectionist isn’t inherently a bad thing. If your work involves another person’s health or safety, that’s obviously a valid reason to have incredibly high standards at work.
On the other hand, your perfectionist tendencies can also greatly limit your potential. According to a 2012 study, published in the journal Work & Stress, people with perfectionism have a higher risk of experiencing burnout and stress in the workplace. Moreover, perfectionists often go over-budget and miss deadlines in the pursuit of perfectionism, which can result in them being fired.
How to Fix: Start by reevaluating your standards. Are they realistic? Are other employees able to meet your standards?
Then, ask yourself this: What are the costs associated with the results you produce? Given that perfectionists tend to focus solely on their results, factoring in the costs associated with your work (i.e., time, money, driving coworkers crazy, etc.) can help give you a better perspective.
5. Saying “Yes” to everything
Despite drowning in your own work pile, you’ve also agreed to help three other coworkers on their separate work projects. Why would you do that? If we had to guess, it’s because you’re a people-pleaser.
Similar to perfectionism, people-pleasers have a good quality (the desire to be helpful). They just went a little overkill with it. Unless you want to be constantly stressed out and resentful of your coworkers, it’s time to nip this particularly bad habit in the bud.
How to Fix: Come up with a foolproof strategy for saying “no” to coworkers for different scenarios. Practice saying it alone or with a friend.
Most importantly, learn how to be empathetic to your coworker’s situation without being cajoled into taking on more work. Keep it simple with, “Regretfully, I don’t have the bandwidth to take on more work,” and leave it at that.
6. Not expanding your skillset
So, you’ve been coasting through life on the same skillset that got you hired at your current position. Only now, you’re thinking about job-hopping to advance your career and earn a higher paycheck.
The problem? You have no marketable skills to offer other companies in your field. Whether you meant to expand your skills before life got busy or the thought just didn’t occur to you, you’re now in desperate need to sharpen your skills.
How to Fix: Obviously, the best time to start working on your skills was years ago. The second-best time is now.
There are plenty of ways to start expanding your skillset. Set aside 10 minutes every day to read literature in your industry. Take an online class in your field. Find a mentor who can put you on the fast track to success. Create a plan, stick to it and you’ll eventually develop the skills you need to move up the career ladder.
Forget the big career mistakes. It’s the little things you do on a daily basis that could be slowly destroying your career. If you want to reach the top of the career ladder, take this advice to heart and start changing those detrimental habits ASAP.