Do you find yourself not getting ahead as quickly as you want at work? Have you been passed over for projects, or not included in team activities as much as you would like?
If you’re a reliable employee who gets work done on time and is always willing to help others, you might be wondering why you’re being overlooked. The reality is there are some subtle, but impactful, bad work habits you might be harbouring that could be hindering your career progression.
Here are five of the most common ones to look out for – and how to overcome them.
Using filler words
Overused filler words such as ‘like’, ‘um’, ‘so’ or even ‘sorry’ (when the situation doesn’t warrant it) can make you come across as inarticulate and tarnish your colleagues’ perception of your intelligence, level of professionalism and even ability to communicate to stakeholders. These words are extremely common – most of us use them to some degree – but once they become ingrained in your vocabulary, chances are you may be using them far too often.
Take the time to listen to yourself, ask others if necessary, and then slow yourself down and make a conscious effort to stop the repetition. Filler words can often be replaced with nothing. Once removed from your vocabulary, you will come across as more professional and eloquent.
Clichés are also best avoided if you can. People don’t want to hear you trot out platitudes; they want to be able to understand what you mean and also believe that you are being your true self.
Poor body language
Body language is an important range of nonverbal signals that communicate your feelings and intentions. In fact, it’s estimated that at least 70% of communication is nonverbal, which means poor body language at work can leave a significant negative or inaccurate impression on others.
Common bad habits in this category include avoiding eye contact, which can make you come across as untrustworthy or disinterested. Try to maintain eye contact at least 60% of the time if you are talking one-on-one, and more if you are listening to an individual.
Fidgeting and over-gesticulating are also common. Using your hands to express yourself is great to a degree, but you don’t want to overdo it. If you’re not sure what to do with your hands when talking to people, try steepling them in front of you or using a relaxed hand clasp halfway up your body.
Getting involved in office gossip
The best employees know how to navigate the tricky world of office politics – the best advice is to avoid it, but understandably, workplace dynamics are often complex. Take note of the unspoken rules that operate in any workplace, and work within their boundaries.
Importantly, don’t get caught up in office gossip. It is not constructive and leads people to think you are untrustworthy so it’s unlikely they’ll want to work with you. Even worse, if rumours start to spread and it’s found you are directly involved or responsible, there could be worse outcomes including formal warnings and the incident going on your permanent work record.
The opposite is also true: if you are diplomatic and trustworthy, people will realise they can depend on you to handle greater responsibilities and lead others.
Using poor email etiquette
Emails are a potential minefield in the same way that texts can be. It’s often difficult to detect tone through written communication. So tread carefully and be as clear and straightforward as possible in your emails.
Also avoid emailing or calling if you can have a quick discussion in person instead – think of it as one less email in their inbox and an opportunity to touch base with someone more meaningfully. Relationships make the world go round and this is just as true at work. Hiding behind emails or phone calls can restrict your ability to form good professional relationships. It also demonstrates a disinterest in interacting with your team or colleagues.
Another common bad email habit that can negatively affect people’s perception of you is CC-ing people unnecessarily on email chains. This shows that you don’t know your target audience as well as you should, and you don’t value people’s time. Only email those who need to be directly involved in a discussion. If you are unsure, ask your manager so that the email is targeted and can be actioned.
Bad manners come in various forms, both physical and verbal. Bad personal hygiene shows little respect to your colleagues, as does playing loud music on your computer, or humming or laughing while people are trying to work.
Talking very loudly, especially in an open plan office, can also be tiring to listen to all day. If you have to make a long phone call, try to do it in a meeting room where possible. Otherwise keep the voice down by speaking at a normal level.
Quite simply, always be considerate of others. Saying please and thank you, and holding the door open for colleagues following behind you are small gestures, but they can make a big difference to how you are perceived.
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