Commonly Misused Phrases That Make You Sound Less Professional

When deciding between which phrase to use, be sure to be careful. You wouldn’t want your boss to exact revenge on you. You would want to help extract revenge on the company that stole intellectual property. That’s just one example, but believe there are a ton more that people get mixed up every day. Knowing the difference between commonly misused phrases will help from seeming unprofessional. “An impeccable reputation that makes you look consistently professional and reliable stick with you and could be the difference between a promotion,” U.S. News reported. So go through and learn the correct way to use commonly misused phrases.

“Tongue And Cheek” Versus “Tongue In Cheek”

Commonly misused phrases
Chaloner Woods/Getty Images
Chaloner Woods/Getty Images

Let’s get this one out of the way now. People say tongue in cheek remarks every day. That is a phrase that carries sarcasm, exaggeration, and even irony. An example would be Tom Cruise saying his career is over during a speech after just winning two Academy Awards.

Conversely, people like to use “tongue and cheek” by mistake regularly. “Tongue and cheek” can only mean that a cheek and tongue were involved. Now you can help the next person who uses this phrase.

“Peace Of Mind” Versus “Piece Of Mind”

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Scott Olson/Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

These two phrases are said the same. Spelling separates them, so you must use them correctly to avoid confusion. If one or the other become taken out of context, then someone might get the wrong idea. “Piece of mind” is typically used when someone upsets you.

On the other hand, “peace of mind” is the opposite. Finishing a hard assignment is something that can provide you with peace of mind. “Peace of mind” deals with positivity while a “piece of mind” is negative. Be sure to give your co-workers peace of mind.

Expresso Versus Espresso

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Veli Gurgah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Veli Gurgah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Baristas everywhere, we feel your pain and apologize on behalf of those in society who don’t know the difference. When you go to order one of your favorite drinks from Starbucks, be sure you’re saying it correctly. You can always order as many espressos as you want.

Too bad you can’t order an “expresso.” Expressos do not exist at the moment. Thankfully, the person taking your order knows what you mean and has it out for you in no time.

“Nerve-Wrecking” Versus “Nerve-Wracking”

David Jones/PA Images via Getty Images
David Jones/PA Images via Getty Images

There are plenty of nerve-wracking situations to go around, especially at work. That doesn’t mean you have to misuse the phrase. Figuring out which expression is the correct one can also become nerve-wracking.

The accurate way to use this term is “nerve-wracking.” You may also get away with “nerve-racking” when attempting to use it in written form. Just be sure to pronounce it correctly because wrecking sounds completely different wracking. The phrases coming up next are almost one in the same, but only one is the correct form.

“360-Degree Change” Versus “180-Degree Change”

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Pinterest
Pinterest

When someone is going downhill fast in life, he or she might want to change things up. For some, the same thing keeps getting accomplished, so there is no change involved. That is an example of a 360-degree change. Nothing has altered, and you’re still in the same spot.

Now, if you make changes for the better, that is a 180-degree change. People often forget that a 360 is a full turnaround. Whereas a 180-degree change means turning a whole new direction. Make the 180-degree change and stop using 360.

“Deep-Seeded” Versus “Deep-Seated”

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Fotonoticias/WireImage
Fotonoticias/WireImage

One thing that’s interesting with these two phrases is their visualization. You can vividly picture something that’s deep-seeded. The same goes for deep-seated. How does one navigate between the two? Well, deep-seated is something that feels deeply buried in an existing structure like putting a mummy in the depths of a pyramid.

Planting a deep seed means what it says. You can’t go wrong using either or, but if you wish to be correct at all times, then you should use deep-seated.

“Fall By The Waste Side” Versus “Fall By The Wayside”

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David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Many things can fall by the wayside. An older player on a team falls by the wayside. Your driving skills as you get up there in age also fall by the wayside. Not much can fall by the waste side. That is unless you’re referring to an area where trash is there.

We’re here to remind you to throw out the phrase fall by the waste side. You only need to know fall by the wayside. And that is when something hasn’t been up to par with everything else.

“I Could Care Less” Versus “I Couldn’t Care Less”

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Mark Makela/Corbis via Getty Images
Mark Makela/Corbis via Getty Images

This is probably one of the most commonly misused phrases you will encounter or perform yourself. To care or not, is the real question. Usually, when someone uses this phrase, they are trying to show how little they care. In the end, they end up revealing they do care.

Saying “I could care less” means you care to a certain extent. There’s room to “care less” as you stated. When you use “I couldn’t care less,” you’re saying what you mean.

“Old Timer’s Disease” Versus “Alzheimer’s Disease”

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Francis Dean/Corbis via Getty Images
Francis Dean/Corbis via Getty Images

If you haven’t encountered anyone who uses “old timer’s disease,” consider yourself lucky. This silly misuse of phrases can either be a joke, or people genuinely don’t know the difference. You hear the old timer’s phrase more so from younger people.

Imagine being an adult and accidentally telling someone they have “Alzheimer’s?” You better immediately do the fake laugh with the “just kidding” attached. Whether you use it as a joke, it’s probably best you put that old timer’s disease to rest.

“Peak Interest” Versus “Pique Interest”

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Pinterest/eestewart42
Pinterest/eestewart42

Don’t be that person who uses these wrong because they sound similar. You must know the difference between “peak” and “pique” before you get started throwing this phrase around. When someone has reached their “peak interest,” that means there is nothing more that can make them raise their interest.

People who like to travel or eat new foods love to find something that “piques their interest.” Meaning the foods or desired travel destination entices an idea in their mind. The queen looks like her interest is piqued in the image above.

“Statue Of Limitations” Versus “Statute Of Limitations”

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trendingcurrentevents/Instagram

You’ve probably dealt with this issue in the past. We get it, not all of us are fluent in the legal talk. This phrase is for the Olivia Pope’s of the world, not Joe from the diner. The frequent misuse is “statue of limitations.”

Hold it right there. It’s not a sculpture of limitations. The correct way to say this is “statute of limitations.” It is a legal term used to describe a period of limitations.

“Case And Point” Versus “Case In Point”

Whitney Hayward/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Whitney Hayward/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

When trying to differentiate between these two, always remember “in” focuses on a certain matter. “And” means you’re going for separate actions. These phrases might be one of the harder ones to remember.

Case in point is something you might hear in the court of law. A lawyer might begin his final statement with “case in point.” “Case and point” sounds more like you’re trying to outline a robbery. Point to exactly where the points of interests are.

Doing Good Versus Doing Well

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Leon Neal/Getty Images
Leon Neal/Getty Images

Grammar police probably make the same face Obama is making above when they encounter this misusage. “Doing well” and “doing good” are used so often that people think either are fair to use. They also think they have the same meaning.

News flash, these two phrases do not hold the same meaning in the slightest. You use “good” when you wish to describe nouns. “Well” gets used when you want to define a verb. The cat jumps well. She is a good cat.

“Beckon Call” Versus “Beck And Call”

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Noam Galai/Getty Images
Noam Galai/Getty Images

Loved ones are usually at their significant other’s beck and call. Meaning, they are willing and ready to respond to a request given to them at any moment. That must be a great feeling to have someone at your beck and call.

Now, if you have a pal by the name of Beckon and they call you up, then you can tell someone you’re taking the Beckon call. The first option is the right way to go.

“Should Have” Versus “Should Of”

Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

These two are tricky because of how close they sound. When you use “should have,” you often turn it into its contraction form “should’ve.” That word sounds terribly like “should of.” Because of that, people like to get comfortable with using both.

Unless you’re a grammatical champion, you probably don’t know which of the two is proper to use. The more professional way is always “should have.” You should have paid more attention in class.

“Escape Goat” Versus “Scapegoat”

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Sven Hoppe/picture alliance via Getty Images
Sven Hoppe/picture alliance via Getty Images

If you’re a farmer with various animals under your care, then you may have a valid point to use “escape goat.” Someone might come and try and rob you, but luckily your goat is fast, so you ride away on your escape goat.

In reality, you should never use “escape goat.” The correct term is a “scapegoat.” And a scapegoat is someone who takes the blame, gets thrown under the bus, or whatever you want to use to describe it. Don’t be a scapegoat in life.

“Physical Year” Versus “Fiscal Year”

Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

“Hi yes, do you think our country is going to have a better physical year than last year with finances?” The facial response in the photo above is the face someone might make if they get asked that. With only a slight difference in pronunciation, these two get confused often.

Unless you’re some athlete, you shouldn’t have “physical years.” However, the physical year also refers to the calendar year. The term that people get confused is the “fiscal year.” The fiscal year is for taxes and accounting purposes.

“Doggie Dog” Versus “Dog Eat Dog”

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TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images
TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

These are two entirely different phrases. “Doggie dog” is a phrase you would use to describe one of your dog friends. You might even refer to one of your human friends as “doggie dog.” As far as “dog eat dog” goes, that’s a whole other ballpark.

The two phrases almost sound similar depending on how fast you say them. “Dog eat dog” is used to describe a competitive environment. Sometimes, it can be a dog eat dog world.

“Buy In Large” Versus “By And Large”

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

“Buy in large” and “by and large” are two terms you don’t want to mix up. “By and large” gets credited as a sailor term, but its origins are different. It started as meaning “generally speaking” or “in general.”

“Buy in large” means what it says. If you’re on a date at the movies and you’re a little hungrier than usual, then the popcorn is something you might buy in large. People mix these two up often.

“Jive With” Versus “Jibe With”

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MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images
MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images

You both “jive” and “jibe” with someone. Two different verbs that are more acceptable depending on your location. When you “jive with,” you’re dancing with someone in a sense. It’s a playful verb and something you wouldn’t want to say in the workplace.

To “jibe with” someone means to get along with or understand. If your boss asks how things are going with the new employee, you can always say the two of you are jibing together.

“For All Intensive Purposes” Versus “For All Intents And Purposes”

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Orlando /Three Lions/Getty Images
Orlando /Three Lions/Getty Images

This phrase is always misused. Someone who wants to speak intelligently by using “for all intensive purposes” is actually doing the opposite. “Intensive” means something is focused or powerful, so unless you’re only referring to one main, focused purpose, you don’t want to use this phrase.

The correct phrase is “for all intents and purposes,” which means that you’re coming from all possible important angles and opinions. So for all intents and purposes of sounding professional, keep this information in mind.

“One In The Same” Versus “One And The Same”

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Horst P. Horst/Condé Nast via Getty Images
Horst P. Horst/Condé Nast via Getty Images

This one is tough to distinguish, especially since the two phrases sound so similar. The correct version is “one and the same,” because when you’re discussing an incident, for example, that is exactly similar to another that happened after it, they are one and the same.

“One in the same” makes no grammatical sense. You could have “one” of something, but to have it “in the same” is confusing since “the same” is not an actual place that you could go to.

“On Accident” Versus “By Accident”

Kirn Vintage Stock/Corbis via Getty Images
Kirn Vintage Stock/Corbis via Getty Images

Most people use either of these phrases since they’re both so embedded in colloquial American English. When someone uses either of these terms, they’re usually referring to something that happened unexpectedly. In that case, something happened “by accident.”

But if something happened “on accident,” you’re actually saying that it happened on top of a pre-existing accident. We’re sure you usually say this when something is an accident the first time, so whenever that happens, just remember that it was “by accident.”

“Self-Depreciating” Versus “Self-Deprecating”

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Waring Abbott/Getty Images
Waring Abbott/Getty Images

While using either of these phrases probably wouldn’t be helpful to you in your pursuit of sounding professional (confidence is key!), it would at least be helpful to know which version you don’t want to use.

“Depreciation” is a financial term referring to something that loses value. Humans can’t technically lose value in the same sense, but they can be self-deprecating when they’re being hard on themselves. But remember, it doesn’t help to be self-deprecating in the professional world!

“Irregardless” Versus “Regardless”

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20th Century-Fox/Getty Images
20th Century-Fox/Getty Images

Aficionados of the English language will probably stop talking to you if you use the word “irregardless.” Though it’s technically in the dictionary, please note that official dictionaries often add colloquial words to reflect the fact that people use them.

That being said, “irregardless” was never technically a word, regardless of what you hear people say these days. We generally use both to mean the same thing, but “irregardless” just sounds repetitive and nonsensical. Regardless, people are still probably going to use the wrong term, but please don’t be one of them.

“Make Do” Versus “Make Due”

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MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images
MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images

Neither of these phrases is wrong, but it helps to know which one is the right one to use depending on what you want to say. When you “make do” with something, you’re getting by with whatever means you already have.

Alternatively, you can “make something due” at a certain date or deadline, but that is completely different from the former phrase. If someone makes a project due by next week, but you haven’t gathered all your materials yet, then you’ll just have to make do with what you’ve got.

“Nip It In The Butt” Versus “Nip It In The Bud”

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Scott Barbour/Getty Images
Scott Barbour/Getty Images

If you’ve ever told someone you had to “nip it in the butt,” then they probably had a strange reaction. After all, you just said you did something to someone’s derriere, but that’s beside the point.

Let’s nip this miscommunication in the bud right now. When you use the phrase, you mean that you are putting something to an end before it can progress. This comes from the idea of de-budding flowers before they had a chance to grow into a full bloom.

“Shoe-In” Versus “Shoo In”

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Edward Kasper/Conde Nast via Getty Images
Edward Kasper/Conde Nast via Getty Images

The differentiation between these two phrases is a little tricky. When we use this phrase, we’re usually saying that someone is going to win. People probably think saying that person is a “shoe-in” is the correct version, especially since that has the visualization of someone having their foot in the door.

It’s actually wrong, though. The original phrase is “shoo in,” which hearkens back to when horse racing was big. Back then, people would try to “shoo,” or in other words urge, the horses towards victory.

“Mute Point” Versus “Moot Point”

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Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

To say that a topic of conversation has reached a “moot point” means that that topic is irrelevant or is up to debate. This is usually what people mean when they use the phrase, and as such, “moot point” should be the version they use.

A “mute point” wouldn’t make too much sense. To mute something means to silence it, just as you can with a television at the push of a button. “Mute” is a verb, while “moot” is not.

“Proceed” Versus “Precede”

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FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Both of these words are very much legitimate words in the English language, but it’s helpful to know the difference between them and when to use them if you want to sound professional.

If you are going to “proceed,” it means you are going to continue or move forward with something. This is completely different than if you use the word “precede,” which is a verb that explains something is coming before another thing. These definitions should precede your thoughts before they proceed to come out of your mouth.

“Shade Light On” Versus “Shed Light On”

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Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

If by explaining something to someone your objective is to “shade light on” a topic, then you’re only making things more confusing for that person. Shade and light are contradicting. We suppose you could shade a light, but then you’d be blocking the light, which is the opposite of “shed light on.”

When you’re “shedding light on” something, you’re making a topic more clear, which is what people usually mean when they use this term. Now that we shed some light on how to use this phrase, we hope you don’t use the incorrect version.

“Down The Pipe” Versus “Down The Pike”

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Archive Photos/Getty Images
Archive Photos/Getty Images

People use these phrases to indicate that something is about to happen or that it is near. But the correct usage of this idiom is “down the pike” because we’re going to tell you now that “down the pipe” was never correct.

Even though people use both phrases to mean the same thing, the original phrase was “down the pike,” which referred to something coming down the turnpike, as if something is headed your way. Mario may have traveled “down the pipe” in the same sense, but just know that his saving Princess Peach was down the pike.

“Flush It Out” Versus “Flesh It Out”

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Lloyd Yearwood/Three Lions/Getty Images
Lloyd Yearwood/Three Lions/Getty Images

Both of these phrases can be used in similar topics of conversation, but be careful about which one you use. When you encounter a problem in a big project but can’t pinpoint its source, you make efforts to “flush it out” and figure out what the issue was.

On the other hand, if you have an idea for a project, but don’t know exactly where to take it, you would then “flesh out” the idea. The easy way to remember the difference is to think of the visuals behind these two phrases.

“Sneak Peak” Versus “Sneak Peek”

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Jack Tinney/Getty Images
Jack Tinney/Getty Images

In any normal conversation, there’d be no way to differentiate between these two phrases. But if you were writing either of these out, it’s helpful to know the correct version to use.

The key here is to understand the difference between “peak” and “peek.” A “peak” is the highest point of something, like a mountain or a building, while a “peek” is a quick glimpse. People say this phrase usually when they’re referring to a sly glimpse of something, before its official debut. In that case, you always want to say “sneak peek.”

“Bemused” Versus “Amused”

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images

This one is tricky. Because both words sound so similar, people tend to think that the words are synonymous with each other but in fact, they are complete opposites. When you’re “amused” you are enjoying something. When you’re “bemused,” you’re bewildered or confused.

Just think of it this way: People are either bemused or amused by psychological thrillers. They’re either bemused because they don’t understand what’s going on. On the other hand, those who do understand what’s going on take great amusement in the film.

“Anyway” Versus “Anyways”

John Pratt/Keystone Features/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
John Pratt/Keystone Features/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In everyday conversation, people use “anyways” just as often as they use “anyway.” Many of us let it slide in normal conversation, but grammar particulars know that everytime someone says “anyways,” they’re technically wrong.

Especially in cases where you want to sound professional, always remember to use “anyway” without the extra “s” at the end. That way, people will see that not only can you articulate your thoughts in a precise and clear manner, but you also know the difference between the two words. Anyway, that’s what this article is about, is it not?

“Without Further Adieu” Versus “Without Further Ado”

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Thurston Hopkins/Getty Images
Thurston Hopkins/Getty Images

When you hear both of these phrases, you might consider them to be saying the same thing. However, only one of them is correct. “Adieu” is a fancy way of saying goodbye, taking its origins from the French language. “Ado” is another word for hubbub or fuss.

When someone says “without further ado,” they mean to cut through all the nonsense and get straight to the point. To say “without further adieu” wouldn’t have the same effect since in that case, you’d just be saying something without saying goodbye.

“Step Foot” Versus “Set Foot”

Astronaut on the moon
NASA/ullstein bild via Getty Images
NASA/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Both of these phrases can be used interchangeably since neither of them are technically incorrect. However, most people use “set foot” as in, “the minute Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, history was made.”

In fact, the Oxford English Dictrionary notes that the phrase “set foot” is centuries older than its counterpart. So if you want to be more traditional and thereby sound more professional, we suggest saying “set foot” as opposed to “step foot.”

“Try And” Versus “Try To”

Woman working at Ford Motors
JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN/AFP/Getty Images
JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN/AFP/Getty Images

We’re sure that you’ve heard someone say that they’re going to “try and do something” and you probably didn’t blink an eye to the phrase. While most people get away with saying either, for the sake of sounding professional, it might help to know that you should “try to” use the correct version.

If you “try to” do something, then you’re actively working toward achieving whatever it is you’re doing. On the other hand, when you “try and” do something, you’re trying on top of doing something else.

“Hone In” Versus “Home In”

Chef prepping food
Stefano Guidi/LightRocket via Getty Images
Stefano Guidi/LightRocket via Getty Images

These two phrases sound very similar, so it’s easy to assume that you’re saying the same thing when you use one or the other. In fact, they have two very distinct meanings and it’s helpful to know which is which.

When you “hone in” on something, you’re focusing on it to become better. For example, you’re “honing in” on your technical skills. But if you “home in” on something, that means you’re getting closer to your goal. Remember, honing in on your technical skills will help you home in on your goal of landing that job.

Ignoring Personal Boundaries

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.