Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
WORKPLACE / OCT. 20, 2014
version 2, draft 2

How to Overcome Your Worst Work Habits

Everybody has habits; some are more annoying than others, but there are some that are incredibly embarrassing or irritating to those around us. When you’re stuck with people who have these habits in the workplace, or you’re concerned that your habits are driving co-workers up the wall, use these tips to tactfully confront someone else or work on your most annoying work habits.

Tell them nicely, but be honest

The message can be lost in conversations that are too indirect; the more you try to beat around the bush in an effort to be polite, the higher the chance that your co-worker will completely miss what you’re trying to say. It’s important to take your co-worker aside, away from everyone else, and tell them that a habit they have may be irritating or distracting. There are several ways to word this confrontation so that co-workers don’t take offense, but being honest is always the best policy.

However, it’s very important to do this away from the rest of the office. If you try to have this conversation in front of everyone else, your co-worker may feel attacked or embarrassed; more embarrassed than if you had told them alone.

If you’re the one with the problem, be actively aware of it

If a co-worker has had the above conversation with you concerning a habit you demonstrate in the workplace, don’t take it personally and try not to be too embarrassed. Remember that everyone has bad habits. However, you should make an active effort to correct this behavior as quickly as possible. Be on the lookout, especially in situations where this behavior is more common. For instance, if you pace while speaking in a meeting, make an active effort to stand in one place (say, in front of your chair) and try not to move for any reason.

If you have a habit of participating in office gossip, make a little note to yourself on your palm or mentally to gracefully bow out before you say anything that could hurt someone else. If your co-workers see that you’re making an honest effort to do better, they’re less likely to be irritated if you make a mistake or slip up.

Reward positive behavior

This may seem more common sense than anything else, but rewarding positive changes is a great way to reinforce (or show appreciation) for the effort your co-worker is making to change. Thank them when they correct their behavior or buy them a cup of coffee. They’ll remember that you noticed and took the time to show appreciation for their hard work.

If you’re breaking a habit, don’t forget to reward yourself. Mentally, you’re more likely to continue that behavior and break the habit if you associate such with a small treat at the end of the week or a splurge on the weekend.

Office habits can be the reason you and your co-workers call in sick; some days, you just can’t handle it. These simple tips can help you kick the habit or bring up the inevitably awkward conversation with co-workers. Good luck!


Image source: Creative commons licensed (BY-ND) flickr photo by William A. Franklin.

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