20 Bad Work Habits You Need to Eliminate from Your Life

Annoying colleague with bad work habits on phone

Once you’ve been in the same job for a while, it’s easy to fall into the trap of getting too comfortable and developing certain bad work habits without even realising it. Whether you’ve started arriving late to work on a daily basis or you add an extra 10 minutes on to your lunch break (because you can!), it can only harm your chances of getting promoted or, worse, cost you your job altogether.

But there’s no cause for alarm just yet. As long as you’re able to identify – and eliminate – any bad habits, there’s nothing stopping from advancing your career.

Here are 20 of the worst and most irritating bad habits that you need to look out for in the workplace!

1. Fidgeting Mindlessly

You’re just about to get stuck into your brainstorming session when you suddenly start frantically clicking your pen, tapping your nails on your keyboard or jiggling your foot. These mindless outlets of nervous disposition might seem innocent and harmless to you, but they’re anything but to your cubicle pal who can’t help but notice every single annoying pen click or shake. In other words, try finding a more silent – and less annoying – outlet, instead, such as doodling or using a fidget spinner.

2. Dressing Unprofessionally

Even if your company has a relaxed dress code, it’s always a good idea to dress to impress. Some items of clothing – or entire outfits, for that matter – are better saved for the weekend and are completely unacceptable for work. Like that comfy velour tracksuit that you love, for example – hey, I’m not judging, but looking sloppy won’t earn your boss’s respect!

3. Going into Work When You’re Sick

You think you might be doing your team a favour by coming into work when you’re ill – after all, you’re not dying, right – but you’re definitely not. Besides the fact that your constant coughing, sniffling and heavy breathing (yes, your colleagues can hear it, too!) is irritating everyone, you’re also putting your entire team’s health at risk. Remember: one man down is better than a whole army, so next time you’re feeling under the weather, call in sick or at the very least consider working from home.

4. Being Unprepared

Are you a pro at winging it? So much so that you managed to blag your way through the interview for your dream job? Sadly, you won’t be able to keep this act up for long – senior management will eventually see through the façade and start noticing how you turn up unprepared for every meeting. Do yourself a favour and start setting time aside to prepare for meetings and huddles – your effort will pay off, and you’ll get noticed for it.

5. Showing Up Late to Everything

Rocking up late to work and to meetings will give off the impression that – quite frankly – you don’t care about your job or your colleagues. No matter how hard you work in the time that you’re present, your boss will only remember your tardy arrival, and nothing else. So, clean up your act and start making an effort to be early to everything – I promise: it’s not as bad as it sounds!

6. Making a Lot of Noise

There’s nothing more frustrating and distracting than hearing a colleague’s mobile phone vibrate 20+ times a day or hearing the sound come out of their headphones as they watch funny YouTube videos when they should really be working! So, try to be a little more considerate of your colleagues and keep distracting noises to a minimum – you could even consider muting all your devices (unless, of course, there’s an emergency).

7. Complaining

If you’re sick of hearing your own voice, it’s likely that your colleagues are, too! Although you may not be the voice of positivity, being known for your morning moaning can be soul-destroying. So, next time you go to complain about a client, the office supplies, your salary or whatever else it is that you like to moan about, try to write it down, instead. Not only does this give you the release that you long for, but it also saves you from harming your professional image in the process.

8. Being Unhygienic

Nobody’s a fan of the office slob: the person who keeps blocking the kitchen sink with the remains of their lunch, who always uses the coffee pot but never cleans it, and who religiously leaves smelly banana peels on their desk for days at a time! And it only gets worse when they don’t shower or use deodorant. Even if your work performance is stellar, being unhygienic can cause a poor first impression and kill your career advancement opportunities in the process.

9. Neglecting Your Body Language

They say that actions speak louder than words but, sadly, many professionals forget to pay close attention to their body language. And this can be disastrous. For example, if you close off every time your boss is around you and you fail to look them in the eyes, you’re giving off the impression of someone who’s insecure and who lacks confidence. This, in turn, will make them doubt your ability to perform well on the job.

10. Procrastinating

Procrastinating might not have been a big deal for you at uni – after all, you were always able to deliver your assignments on time – but it is a big deal in the workplace. Indeed, your constant stalling can get in the way of colleagues doing their own jobs, who are then forced to work overtime when you finally get around to doing your part as deadlines start inching closer. And they hate you for it.

11. Having a Messy Desk

Having a messy desk may seem innocent to you, but it can be distracting to your colleagues – especially if you’re guilty of spreading out on to their work area. Indeed, if your folders all over the place and your coworker barely has enough space for their water bottle, you need to fix the situation – and fast.

12. Ignoring Basic Email Etiquette

Do you get so engrossed in your work that you forget to check your inbox, and are you guilty of one-word replies that often come across as rude or abrupt? Well, quite simply, it makes you look unprofessional and this is bad email etiquette. So, start paying more attention to your inbox and allocate five minutes every hour to scroll through your emails to deal with those that are important and mark those that can wait until later.

13. Being a Social Media Addict

Social media has become such a huge part of our day-to-day lives, so much so that it’s often extremely hard to distance ourselves from the likes of Facebook and Twitter. But if you find yourself checking Instagram 20 times a day, rest assured there’s nothing healthy about it – not to mention that your employer won’t appreciate the fact that you’re updating your social status during workhours. Try saving your social stalking for lunchtime!

14. Using Poor Grammar

Even if you’re best buds with the boss, it’s important to remain professional in the workplace at all times. In other words, don’t switch to slang or using poor grammar because you think it’s ‘cool’. Not only will you be labelled ‘illiterate’ but you will also potentially damage your chances of climbing the career ladder.

15. Being Ill-Mannered

Interrupting someone mid-conversation or telling them to ‘come here’ is, in one word, rude – not to mention annoying. So, make sure you say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ (just like your mother taught you), and always be considerate of those around you to respect workplace etiquette. If you really do need to interrupt a conversation because of a pressing issue, be sure to say ‘excuse me’ first!

16. Being Hot-Headed

Do you generally have a short fuse? If so, it’s important to control your temper and to keep tantrums to a minimum in the workplace – after all, no one likes the colleague who throws their toys out of the pram for no reason. Consider meditating or practicing breathing techniques to stay calm and lower your heart rate – and maybe even try counting to 10 before responding to stressful situations so that you don’t say anything you may later regret!

17. Not Being Part of the Team

If I had a penny for every time I heard the phrase ‘that’s not part of my job’, I’d be extremely rich. But the truth is that this type of attitude can crush your career. You should always be eager to take on new responsibilities and to help your colleagues in times of need – after all, you’re part of a team! Similarly, if you constantly avoid social events, you’ll come across as arrogant or antisocial – both of which will harm your progress in the workplace.

18. Being a Potty Mouth

Not only are profanities frowned upon in the workplace, but they can also land you in deep waters with HR. Swearing demonstrates that you are indeed a hot-head and are incapable of processing information to form a well-thought solution.

19. Abusing Company Time

Talking or texting with friends on company time will come off as unprofessional if it’s a constant thing and it even go against company policy. If you really do need to make a personal call, leave the room so you avoid distracting your cubicle mates with your chat about your choice of food for dinner that evening.

20. Sharing TMI

You might be super pally with your coworkers, but some people find it hard to draw the line between personal and professional. And if you’re sharing personal details about your divorce or weekend antics with the whole office, you’re definitely giving too much away. Reign it back and save it for your closest friends.


There’s probably a few bad work habits listed here that you’re guilty of, and it’s important that you understand how potentially damaging they can be to your career advancement. Be sure to make more conscious choices and to try to break these habits to become a more successful professional.

What other habits do you (or your officemates) need to kick? Tell us in the comments section below!