Office Behaviors That Make You Come Off As Unprofessional

From the words we say, the non-verbal messages we share, and the actions we take in general, our office behaviors can have negative effects on our careers. Do you know which office behaviors make you seem less professional? Some of our unprofessional behaviors are easy to spot and correct while others you might not have realized you’re engaging in on a perhaps a daily basis.

Ignoring Personal Boundaries

work space
CoWomen/Unsplash
CoWomen/Unsplash

This isn’t just about personal space. The moment you start talking loudly on the phone to your significant other while broadcasting your personal problems, you’re likely to distract your co-workers and cause animosity.

Love microwaving fish? Just don’t, especially if the microwave is near an area where people are busily working at their desks. Personal space intrusion occurs when you hinder someone else’s working space whether that’s through loud sounds, smells, or even wearing a pungent cologne or perfume. Careers website Monster.com lists strong smells among the worst annoyances reported by employees.

Monopolizing Meetings Is Annoying And Unproductive

meeting at work
You X Ventures/Unsplash
You X Ventures/Unsplash

If you walk into every meeting with a plan to get all of your own ideas out into the open you’re doing meetings all wrong. Taking time away from your co-workers is not only rude, it’s most likely going to be unproductive for your company as you create a one-sided environment.

This behavior tells your co-workers that you don’t value their time or their opinions. If you monopolize meetings with a large number of people, you’ll likely make some work enemies along the way.

Showing Up Late To Every Meeting

late for meeting
Jacob Le/Unsplash
Jacob Le/Unsplash

First, showing up late to anything is rude, especially if you are the only person showing up late. Making a habit of this practice tells your co-workers you don’t value their time. If you don’t value your co-workers’ time, they won’t value your input.

If you want to come off as rude or arrogant, keep showing up to meetings 10 minutes late and then observe how your co-workers treat you following your repeated tardiness.

Being Constantly Pessimistic

mad employee
Icon8 Team/Unspalsh
Icon8 Team/Unspalsh

If you’ve ever had to deal with a constantly negative co-worker you’re probably well aware of how draining the experience can become. We’re not talking about some occasional negative energy but rather the person in your office who is constantly down about everything.

CareerBuilder Chief Human-Resources Officer Rosemary Haefner tells BusinessInsider “There’s nothing as energy-draining as having to deal with a pessimistic coworker,” and she adds, “Things do go wrong, but even when they do, focus your energy towards what you’ve learned from a bad situation.”

Maintaining A Desk Void Of Items

desk succulent
Sanni Sahil/Unsplash
Sanni Sahil/Unsplash

This one surprised us. An article from Reader’s Digest recommends keeping some personal items on your desk. In the least, you should have visible pens, notepads, and various other work-related items on display.

According to RD, the lack of anything on your desk “actually makes it look like you don’t care about your job.” If you want to see more professional, don’t be afraid to show that you care about things outside your job. In fact, if you put in long hours, showing that you are sacrificing some time away from other things you enjoy can go a long way.

Lose Your Phone Addiction, At Least At Work

cell phone in office
Williem Iven/Unsplash
Williem Iven/Unsplash

Using your smartphone to glance at incoming emails or Slack messages is one thing, using it to check on Instagram, Facebook, and personal messages is something completely different.

When you’re in meetings with co-workers or having a one-on-one conversation with someone at work, avoid glaring down at your phone. Etiquette expert Sharon Schweitzer told Bustle, “Even a brief moment of distraction due to personal relations on your phone might make your coworkers think you’re bored or not committed to your work.”

Constantly Interrupting Your Co-Workers

office life
Clayton Cardinalli/Unsplash
Clayton Cardinalli/Unsplash

It’s fine to jump in and offer a correction if incorrect information is being given. It’s something completely different to cut off a co-worker’s thoughts because you disagree with them all the time.

The team at HelloGiggles asked people what trait they found unprofessional and “constant interruptions” was near the top of their list. Instead of interrupting, wait for your co-worker to finish their entire thought and then offer your own insight into the topic at hand.

Constantly Trying To Chat With Your Co-Workers

employees talking
Austin Distel/Unsplash
Austin Distel/Unsplash

Even in the most social of offices, employees who are dedicated to their work can quickly become annoyed by constant chit-chat.

Washington Post advice columnist Carolyn Hax says you can avoid this issue by watching a co-worker’s body language. Hax tells Monster, “When you’re telling that hilarious story about your weekend, are your colleague’s eyes on you, or drifting over to her computer screen?” You should apologize if you realize you’re being distracted and offer to finish the story later. Only finish the story, however, if your co-worker asks about it.

Unexpected Touching

touching at work
Sarah Cervantes/Unsplash
Sarah Cervantes/Unsplash

It should go without saying that inappropriate touching can cause legal issues at work. In some cases, however, employees don’t realize that they’re pushing the boundaries of what their co-workers consider annoying.

Maybe you’re a “hugger” and you love to mention out loud, “none of that handshaking, I’m a hugger.” Washington Post Work Columnist Karla Miller reminds us to “Remember your co-workers aren’t necessarily your friends and even those who are may not enjoy being touched.” Err on the side of caution when it comes to engaging in personal contact with co-workers or anyone for that matter.

Faking Illness To Take A Day Off

faking sick to get out of work
Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash
Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash

A CareerBuilder survey found that 35% of employees will fake being sick to get out of work. The team at HR Digest note that it’s “rude and inconsiderate when your coworkers have to do your tasks for the day.”

If you’re constantly calling in sick at the last minute, we suggest that you figure out a better work-life balance when it comes to personal tasks. If you just don’t want to go into work, maybe it’s time to find another job so you stop inconveniencing your co-workers on a regular basis.

Handling E-Mails With Little Care

sending email
John Schnobrich/Unsplash
John Schnobrich/Unsplash

There are a lot of ways you can come off as unprofessional with emails. For example, you might take a long time to respond or you might send lengthy emails that could have been sent with fewer, more well thought out words.

Katharine Brooks, Director of Liberal Arts Career Services at The University of Texas Austin, tells Forbes that “You might be perceived as abrupt or rude, or too long-winded or wordy.” You may also miss last-minute meeting invites and cause your co-workers to miss their own deadlines when you don’t respond fast enough to their required questions.

Not Engaging In Settings That Require Engagement

ignored employee
Sebastian Herrmann/Unsplash
Sebastian Herrmann/Unsplash

Careers and Life Sciences website BioSpace notes that being non-engaged with your co-workers will show your unprofessional side. Some of the most obvious signs including rolling your eyes when co-workers are speaking and falling asleep in meetings.

Less obvious forms of unprofessional non-engagement include constantly failing to contribute during meetings and arriving unprepared for meetings. Constantly asking people to repeat what they said when you’re asked to contribute but you haven’t been paying close attention is another surefire way to show off your lack of professionalism.

Taking Credit For Every Success

well dressed employee
Icon8 Team/Unsplash
Icon8 Team/Unsplash

Unless you work in a department of one, you’re probably not responsible for every success that comes your way, and even then, you probably have help with some tasks. Learning how to take and give credit where it’s due is important for coming off as completely professional.

Sharing credit is a great way to show your boss that you’re trustworthy and that you engage in decision-making processes with your peers. Lifting up others around you will also lead to more trust which will likely ensure your co-workers have your back when things inevitably go sideways at work.

Dressing For A Demotion

too many clothes
freestocks/Unsplash
freestocks/Unsplash

We need to say right off the bat that dressing for a demotion has nothing to do with how your office dresses. We fully understand that casual dress codes have come the norm for many businesses.

Dressing for a demotion specifically focuses on dressing far outside of the typical office clothing choices. If you show up in clubwear, for example, you may be seen as unprofessional, even if your office is jeans and t-shirt friendly. Wearing clothing with inappropriate imagery and sayings, and rolling into the office in messy clothing can also be seen as unprofessional.

Passing The Blame To Your Co-Workers

awkward conversation
Mimi Thian/Unsplash
Mimi Thian/Unsplash

We’ve already talked about taking all of the good credit for completed tasks and projects and this goes the other way too. You shouldn’t pass the blame to co-workers unless there is solid proof they did something wrong.

Even then, a simple mistake doesn’t need to be amplified, instead, talk to your co-worker so they are aware of what they did wrong and offer a better course of action for next time. If you start throwing your co-workers under the bus they will gladly return the favor when the opportunity arises. Effective leaders teach and annoying co-workers tattle over inconsequential actions.

Asking Questions Constantly With Every New Assignment

trees with question marks
Evan Dennis/Unsplash
Evan Dennis/Unsplash

We want to be really clear about this unprofessional move. Asking questions isn’t bad but asking questions repeatedly throughout the day and weeks after you’ve been handed an assignment is really annoying and could rub your co-workers the wrong way.

Instead, look over your new assignment and create a well-thought-out list of questions you have about the work that lies ahead of you. Don’t spout of questions without giving them thought as you may ask a lot of unnecessary questions that waste your co-worker’s time. Presenting your questions in a thought out manner also shows you care about the work that needs to be completed.

Don’t Be A Know It All

smart person
Timothy Dykes/Unsplash
Timothy Dykes/Unsplash

There are many ways you can be a know it all and it’s not just about having all the answers. For example, if you simply piggyback on someone else’s response without offering anything of new substantiative help, you’re going to come off as a know-it-all.

One of the most annoying and unprofessional know-it-all moves you can make is simply rephrasing what other people say. Another common issue is attempting to outdo your co-workers when they respond to a question or offer their own insight.

Bragging Is Unprofessional

work bragging
Windows/Unsplash
Windows/Unsplash

Celebrating a win, especially if you were working with a team of co-workers, is fine. Making sure everyone in the office knows how good you did comes across as bragging and employees often find bragging to be unprofessional.

The team at Yahoo Finance! listed several types of bragging as off-limits including speaking in a tone you know will make other people hear about your accomplishment, using a tone of superiority while bragging, and failing to simply say “thank you” when someone congratulates you. Finally, embellishing your accomplishment makes the brag seem even more annoying and unprofessional.

Not Following Good Hygiene Habits

bad hygeine
James Opas/Unsplash
James Opas/Unsplash

We wish this could go without saying but please make sure you are showered and ready to tackle the day. Showing up to work the night after some heavy drinking and wreaking of alcohol or stale smoke is not going to earn you any praise from co-workers.

Other hygiene issues such as burping and passing gas in the open are also going to send up red flags about your professionalism and are almost certainly going to lead to a hard pass from your boss when it comes to a promotion of any kind.

Selling Stuff At Work

girl scout cookies
Darren Halstead/Unsplash
Darren Halstead/Unsplash

We get that your daughter has Girl Scout cookies to sell or your son’s Boy Scout Troop needs to sell 1,000 popcorn tins by Friday but that’s a you problem.

Not to sound harsh but it’s not polite to corner your co-workers and make them feel obligated to buy the stuff you’re selling. It’s even worse if the items are not related to activities your children are engaging in because it then sounds opportunistic.