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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

5 Things to Stop Doing at Work if You Care About Your Professional Reputation

hard worker

Let’s be serious: Who doesn’t want to take his or her career to the next level? Sure, there may be periods of low motivation or productivity, but most of us want to see our careers (and our paychecks) keep advancing.

If you feel like things are stagnating, you could be committing one of these bad office habits—maybe without even realizing it. Luckily, if you are guilty of any of the following, they’re easy to stop doing this week to get back on track. In no time, you’ll be making your strongest professional impression again.

1. Isolating Yourself

Getting your job done and getting along with your co-workers doesn’t always go hand-in-hand, at least where time management is concerned. You might feel as though you need to work through lunch instead of joining your office mates, and that you get more done with your ear buds blasting your playlist. Plus, do you really need to get to know the new guy if it you won’t be working together that closely anyhow?

Although your intentions are (mostly) noble, you're shutting yourself off from the rest of the office. That's not going to work in your favor. The next time the office joins in to celebrate someone's birthday, make time for a slice of cake. Better yet, volunteer to pick up the cake. When you show your teammates you have time for them, they’re more likely to have time for you—and your ideas (win-win!).

2. Blowing Off the End of the Day

It’s 5:30 PM on Friday, and you’re planning to leave by 6 PM to grab dinner with friends. What are you typically doing? Are you “running out the clock” and checking your email several times without actually getting real work done? Maybe you’re even more obviously packing up your things, chatting with colleagues, or obviously texting on your phone.

It’s easy to fall into that trap of skipping out on the last few minutes of each day, but that time can add up quickly. Your colleagues who keep working will notice (and so will your boss).

Start taking that time seriously and you’ll start to take your own career more seriously as well. Of course, you’re not going to want an extensive project, but you can use it to get organized: Plan your next morning or work on helpful small tasks that would otherwise get overlooked (like cleaning your desk or updating your to-do list).

3. Gossiping (a Lot)

As writer Steve Albrecht points out in article for Psychology Today, “The workplace is a good breeding ground for gossip bacteria.” Rumors fly at an alarming pace, and often, they don't have a lot to do with the actual work. Sure, people may point to the bonding benefits, but these are outweighed by the negatives.

You never want a mean rumor or joke to get traced back to you. After all, you’d hate to share something that you overheard only to find out later that you didn’t know half the story (or have a really awkward run-in with the person you were bad-mouthing).

A quick response of “Sorry, but I don’t feel comfortable talking about that” will usually stop the gossip in its tracks, and even make other people aware of what they’re doing. (And if that doesn’t work, try one of these eight non-condescending ways to respond.)

4. Oversharing

Speaking of rumors, one way to fuel that chatter is by providing too much information about your personal life. Making friends at work is a good thing. However, that doesn't mean you have to open up about all your darkest secrets or the long list of faults with your spouse. Be friendly, but draw that line in the sand. Your co-workers don't need (or want!) to know everything.

This week, when you arrive at work and start to unload your latest crisis, stop and ask yourself if it’s something that other people would really want to hear. Do they really need to hear that you can’t believe what your roommate did? If not, leave it alone, and talk about something less personal, like the crazy thing that happened in that show you all watch.

Oh, and resist the urge to join in when others share too much about themselves. What you might gain in temporary camaraderie, you’ll lose in overall respect.

5. Having a Bad Attitude

It’s not just complaining about your home life that can make you look unprofessional. Constantly being negative about things at work can be just as bad (or worse). Even sarcastic jokes like “Time for another time-suck of a meeting” or “I just sent the project to Bill, so get ready for a thousand edits” can drain everybody around you. Plus, you’ll gain a reputation as the office complainer—and who wants to promote that guy?

If you have a problem with some aspect of the job, try to find a solution. If it’s just one of those things, put on some headphones and listen to some uplifting music, go for a walk, or treat yourself to a snack you’d never normally eat. Control your attitude or it will control you. If small fixes aren’t enough, take some time to read books about workplace positivity, like The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy and The Fred Factor: How Passion in Your Work and Life Can Turn the Ordinary into the Extraordinary. Or, if reading books isn’t your thing, check out a few TED talks.

It’s not enough to just complete tasks as assigned. If you care about your job—you need to show it by eliminating these bad habits. If you get find yourself falling back into negative ways, take a deep breath and aim to do better. Nobody’s perfect: What matters is trying to do your best.