14 Bad Habits at Work (And How To Improve Them)

Updated November 30, 2022

How you behave in the workplace can have a profound impact on your productivity, organization, success and relationship with others. While good working habits can help you develop in your role, have positive experiences at work and help managers consider you for promotions, bad habits can do the opposite. It's important to have respect for your job, your workplace and those you work with, so it's always a good idea to work on eliminating your bad workplace habits.

In this article, we describe what bad workplace habits are and provide a list of bad habits you may have at work with actionable ideas for how to improve.

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What are bad work habits?

Bad workplace habits are negative behaviors that have become a pattern. While it may be okay to occasionally display some poor habits at work, they also reflect on you as an employee and an individual. It's important to realize when you've formed a bad habit and to take action to improve how you act at your place of business.

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14 bad habits in the workplace

Once you've identified your bad habits, you can fix them before they have lasting effects on your working relationships and your job. Here are some bad working habits you may have and ways you can improve them:

1. Being negative

Negative feelings may come from working longer hours, not getting along with a coworker or being frustrated at the slow progression of a project. Whatever the reason, negativity can affect your productivity and overall job satisfaction. Projecting negativity can also alienate you from your coworkers, as they may no longer enjoy working with you.

You can improve your negativity and have a more positive outlook by understanding what is frustrating you and exploring ways to improve it. You may need to speak with your manager to see if you can delegate some of your work to others, work a more flexible schedule or focus more on what makes you happy in the workplace.

Read more: 40 Tips for How To Stop Being Negative

2. Having poor communication

Proper communication is important in any workplace, so coworkers can continue to work together to meet goals and create a cohesive work environment that benefits everyone. To make sure you engage in proper communication, actively listen to others, respond promptly to important email correspondence, return phone calls and be open to discussing opinions and new ideas.

3. Procrastinating

You may feel that you do your best work when you wait until right before the due date to complete it, but procrastination can have a negative effect on the quality of your work and the coworkers who rely on your work before they can complete their own.

Instead of procrastinating, aim to finish projects and individual tasks as soon as you can. You may consider writing a daily to-do list, organizing your calendar or asking for help adhering to deadlines when you need it.

Read more: How To Stop Procrastinating at Work: 10 Tips That Really Work

4. Working in disorganization

Another bad work habit is being disorganized. Disorganization can lead to missed deadlines, work taking longer than expected to complete and you being unprepared for meetings. To combat disorganization, create a system that works for you. You may need to time block your calendar, use a physical filing cabinet and organize your computer files into folders, clean your cluttered desk and gather what you need for a meeting in plenty of time.

5. Showing up late

You may run into traffic on the way to work, forget about a scheduled meeting or wake up late for work. These circumstances can happen to even the most well-meaning of employees, however, regular or ongoing tardiness is unprofessional. To show up on time for work or meetings during the day requires that you build a habit of budgeting enough time in your day to make sure you're arriving on time.

6. Not being a team player

Even if you work in a more solitary role, there will likely be a time when you need to work with your coworkers to finish a project or accomplish a shared goal. Being a team player also means you recognize your coworkers for their work, help them with their tasks and have a friendly attitude.

If you aren't a team player, you may have a hard time connecting with your coworkers and your manager may choose to bypass you for a promotion, but becoming more of a team player may come more naturally if you appreciate your coworkers' work styles and display more positivity around the workplace.

Read more: Attitude Motivation: Everything You Need To Know

7. Having poor nonverbal communication

Your body language is just as important as other forms of communication. Your body language may give others the impression that you don't care or lack confidence in your abilities. Instead of continuing with this bad habit, pay close attention to how you present yourself to others. Make sure to maintain eye contact when someone is speaking and keep your arms uncrossed so you don't give the impression that you're indifferent or upset.

8. Becoming distracted

There are a lot of distractions in any workday and work environment. From a loud office to notifications on your cell phone, distractions can interrupt your workday and deeply affect your time management. If you have a bad distraction habit and it's keeping you from work, focus on what your distractions are and find ways to eliminate them.

If your phone distracts you, put it in a desk drawer. If you're distracted by email notifications on your work computer, consider shutting them off and only checking your email during certain times of the day.

9. Not accepting feedback

Even if you've been in your same career for several years, there is always the opportunity to learn. Your manager, and maybe even your peers, may provide you with feedback on your work, and it's key that you be able to accept and appreciate that feedback. If you aren't able to, you could limit your potential for advancement opportunities.

To get used to accepting feedback, regularly seek it. With feedback from others, you can improve your work and feel more confident in your role.

Read more: How To Ask for Feedback

10. Taking too many breaks

When you are away from your work for too long, it can lessen your actual working hours. Even though your employer may allow you to have breaks throughout the day, it's important to keep them to a reasonable quantity and length.

To improve on this bad habit, understand why you're taking too many breaks. If it's because you can't stay focused on your work for a length of time, you may consider changing where you work from in the office. If you're taking a lot of breaks to meet with friends from another department, suggest that you meet for lunch instead.

11. Having a poor attitude

Consider the benefits of staying professional in the workplace, no matter how frustrating of a situation you may be in. These benefits include a positive working relationship with your coworkers, increased motivation and productivity and more job satisfaction, to name a few. Poor attitudes usually come from being stressed or being unhappy in your current role, but no matter the reason, it's usually something you can manage and improve.

Try to identify where your bad attitude comes from so you can address it, then work to eliminate the cause. For example, if there is a part of your personal life that is causing you stress, consider taking a couple of days off work to handle it so you can come back to work refreshed. If you're responsible for a labor-intensive project at work, ask for help and consider other relaxation techniques like deep breaths throughout the day to control the amount of stress you feel.

12. Lying

It's never a good idea to lie in the workplace. This bad habit can cause a manager or your coworkers to distrust you, and if your lies break company policies, your manager may decide to terminate your employment. It's important to operate from a position of integrity so everyone you work with knows they can rely on you, which leads to positive and fulfilling professional relationships.

To eliminate your lying habit, think before you act or speak, and make sure that what you do and say is truthful. You may also think about the consequences of lying because it's likely that the benefit you may think you get from lying isn't worth the risk of the consequences.

13. Showcasing poor manners

Just as in your personal life, manners are also crucial in the workplace if you want to practice good habits. Say thank you, please, excuse me and sorry when appropriate. Practice basic manners and seek to understand if your coworker is upset by something you did at work so you can rectify the situation.

Even if you perform these basic manners, it's also important to treat everyone in the workplace with respect. The main way to improve any poor manners you may have is to pay close attention to your communication and make sure that you're speaking to others in a kind and open way.

14. Abusing privileges

If your company gives you access to proprietary tools or some lenience, like allowing you to work from home on Fridays, you may find that you've abused these privileges. Once a manager has to address their concerns about your performance, it may be harder to redeem yourself. If you're abusing privileges, remember to have respect for your job and the freedoms and abilities your employer has given to you, and change your habits.

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