11 Workplace Habits Sabotaging Your Success

For those who are trying to move up the ladder in their career, likely you put regular thought into what you can do to best succeed. In addition to taking positive actions to propel yourself forward, have you considered the negative workplace habits that are sabotaging your success? Looking at both the good and the bad ends of the spectrum are equally important to ensuring you are succeeding in your career.

All of us have at least a bad habit or two (I, for one, bite my nails and am always running late, just to name a couple), but the strange part about some of our common bad habits at work is that we might think of them as good things. A prime example of that is being a people pleaser — something we’ll get to in a bit more detail below. While it might seem fine and dandy to be agreeable to everything, as you’ll learn it could also be damaging to your career to take that stance. On the flip side, all of the bad workplace habits we’ll discuss in this article can be very easily changed, so don’t get yourself down about it. Rather, breeze through this article, make a couple of changes here and there if you see fit, and get ready to climb that ladder, my dear. It’s onward and upward for you.

Here are 11 common, but terrible workplace habits that are sabotaging your success and how to fix the problem.

1. Multitasking

Whenever I’m multitasking I convince myself that I’m being more productive when the reality is it’s taking me a lot longer to get things accomplished. It’s not just me — science agrees multitasking isn’t the way to go in terms of success in the workplace. According to research from Stanford University, those who multitask are less productive than those who perform a single task at a time. The research also showed multitasking makes it more difficult for people to remember information and more difficult for them to pay attention.

What To Do: Try to focus on completing one task at a time, and resisting the urge to juggle multiple things at once. You can start by trying something simple today: For your next meeting, don’t bring your cell phone in the room with you. It’ll prevent you from checking email while you’re in there, and will help you focus fully on what’s happening in front of you.

2. Overloading Yourself With Information

Likely, anyone out there who is striving for success is someone who might also be thirsty for knowledge. However, what might seem innocent — the simple act of gobbling up as much information as you can each day — can actually be a negative. According to a Lexis Nexis survey, jamming your brain with too much information can kill your productivity. The survey showed a majority of workers reported their quality of work suffers due to information overload, and this is because they can’t sort through the information quickly enough.

What To Do: Slow it down. Try where possible to take information in at a pace that allows you to fully process and understand it.

3. Overcommitting

I’m sure many of us are guilty of saying “yes” at work when we genuinely don’t have the capacity to take on the requested task at hand. According to his Forbes article, Brent Beshore, founder and CEO of, cited overcommitting as one of the things people do that sabotage their success. Why? According to Beshore, by taking on more than you can handle you’re opening yourself up to a potential blow up at work.

What To Do: Before taking on something new, assess whether you truly have the bandwidth to handle it or not. Also, according to Beshore, if the ask doesn’t help you to achieve your goals, politely decline.

4. Complaining Too Much

You might feel complaining at work has become second nature — whether it’s your workload, your coworkers, your boss, or even the food selection in the cafeteria. No matter what your constant complaints are about, stop. Fast Company spoke to Dr. Kristen Lee Costa, a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in combating work stress, who said the constant negatively exuded through the complaints is detrimental to your success. Costa said, “…this behavior can be toxic and eventually damage your reputation. It can also make you lose focus on the great people and good aspects of your work.”

What To Do: Instead of complaining, try to focus on the positives at the office each day. By turning your mindset around you might slowly begin to notice you genuinely don’t have anything to complain about.

5. Making Excuses

According to Psychology Today, making excuses at work can hold you back in achieving the success you strive to reach. The outlet said this is because putting the blame on others and/or outside circumstances can have a negative effect on your workplace performance.

What To Do: Rather than pulling a, “The dog ate my project,” be honest next time you miss a deadline or aren’t able to deliver on an assignment. Also, believe it or not, a lot of times things that seem like a sound excuse to you might come off as a glaringly obvious lie to others, so be as candid as possible.

6. Showing Up Late

You overslept and ran into the office 15 minutes late. Then, the next day you missed your train and ran into the office 15 minutes late. Then, the following day your lost your wallet in the morning causing you to run into the office 15 minutes later. You might not think much of it, but showing up later regularly, despite the excuse, might be quashing your chances at succeeding. Forbes spoke to Roxanne Peplow, business career program instructor and student services advisor at Computer Systems Institute who said showing up late exudes an attitude of carelessness on your part. It also shows a level of disrespect.

What To Do: Peplow suggested, “…be prompt or even a bit early to show that you are time conscious and that you do care about your job and other people’s time, as well.”

7. Making Every Decision

Even if you’re the CEO of your company, you should not be responsible for making every single decision every day. Ever hear of decision fatigue? It’s a real thing. According to research out of The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, making too many decisions can have negative effects, including loss of self-control. The research associated the action of making too many decisions with procrastination, laziness, making poor decisions, and producing low-level work.

What To Do: Since every decision does not have to fall in your lap, don’t make it. Step aside and let someone else makes a few of those decisions today.

8. Being A Constant People Pleaser

People pleasing at work may seem like the key to success, but actually it could be quite the opposite. According to advice from Entrepreneur, agreeing to a bad idea or project in the workplace even though you know it’s not right can backfire. The outlet said by not providing the necessary constructive criticism, it can lead to bad decisions on your part in the future as well as poor judgment. Basically, being nice and kind to coworker — great. Agreeing to everything they say without pause — no so great.

What To Do: Remember that you can be nice without being 100 percent agreeable at every turn. Next time your feedback is requested on something, give it honestly.

9. Apologizing All The Time

I genuinely believe I say “sorry” about a million times a day without realizing I’m even saying it. I never stopped to think about how this could be affecting my career — but it can. Career Builder spoke to Heather Neisen, HR manager at TechnologyAdvice , who explained the impact the word “sorry” can have on a career. Neisen said, “Overall, this can negatively impact a career because it can cause either burnout (due to stress) or it could potentially cause an employee to make poor decisions based on emotions and what others prefer instead of what is best for him or her. Additionally, apologizing all the time will tend to make others think that you are not confident or not sure of your decisions. Ultimately, this can weaken someone's ability to lead well.”

What To Do: Here’s a little experiment to try: Some of the staff at Refinery29 assessed the use of “sorry” by having select employees count how many times they said the word throughout a given workday (one even said “sorry” 47 times in that given period). Try tallying the amount of times you use the word throughout your next workday. Then, look at whether these were truly things you did wrong or felt sympathy for, or if it was just a word flying out of your mouth without any real intention. You might be surprised at the numbers.

10. Flaking

Skipped out on a big, important meeting today to sit outside in the sun instead? This might come as little surprise, but not sticking to your word on projects, meetings, or anything else that you’ve committed to at work will do little to enhance your career. According to Beshore, backing out of something once in a blue moon when other things comes up is one thing, but flaking consistently is quite another. Beshore said this soon becomes a deal breaker in terms of career success.

What To Do: This one is really, really simple. If you commit to something, follow through on it. Also, remind yourself of the earlier point about overcommitting — if you don’t think it’s something you can reasonably attend or take on, than try not to commit to it in the first place.

11. Talking Down To Yourself

Some of us partake in negative self-talk throughout our days, but did you know doing this at work can have a negative affect on your performance? This is because telling yourself you can’t do something can make you actually unable to do something, according to WebMD.

What To Do: Stop this attack on yourself and your skills ASAP. The Mayo Clinic suggested a way to beat negative self-talk is to reverse it with positive self-talk. Their advice? Not saying anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to someone else, and soundly rationalizing any negative thought about yourself that pops into your head by countering it with something positive about yourself and your skills.

Even if you recognize some of these habits are ones that hit home for you, it’s not too late to change them. By following some of the tips above you can start squashing the bad workplace habits and putting yourself right back on the track to success.

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