13 Signs You Have Bad Workplace Etiquette That Could Be Holding You Back

It’s always important to be as professional as possible in the workplace, but sometimes — especially when we get comfortable at our job — we can lose sight of that. Let’s examine some signs you’ve got bad workplace etiquette and see if any of the below resonate with you. You might not think bad workplace etiquette really matters. After all, the quality of work you do is what's most important, right? Not necessarily. Having poor workplace habits and manners can actually hold you back from excelling in your career. The habits we will talk about in this article are those that can hold you back.

I imagine decades ago workplaces were a lot more formal than many workplaces are today. People showed up in formal attire every day, and probably never even heard of the idea of “Casual Friday.” Today, it’s easy for lines to be blurred between work and home, particularly when it comes to how we behave in each of those places. Let’s say you work at a cool, hip startup where you’re allowed to dress however you want every day and your CEO is a mere two years older than you. It can seem like more of a fun place to hang out than a job, so your typical workplace manners might begin to slowly slip. They shouldn’t though, as we’ll get to below. At the end of the day, it’s still your place of work, no matter how casual the environment might be. Being consistently professional will only help to propel you forward. Here are 13 signs you’ve got bad workplace etiquette that could be holding you back.

1. You Have Terrible Email Habits

In a world where we’re seemingly moving at a million miles a minute at work, it can be really easy to not spend the extra moment making sure our emails are as professional as can be. However, it’s really so important to do so. Many times, what might seem like just a quick, simple response from you can actually come off as quite rude, depending on the circumstances. Dr. Katharine Brooks, director of Liberal Arts Career Services at The University of Texas at Austin and author of You Majored in What? Mapping Your Path from Chaos to Career, spoke to Forbes on the topic and noted we should give second thought to how we’re coming across in emails we send. Brooks told the outlet, “You might be perceived as abrupt or rude, or too long-winded or wordy.”

Also, to ace your workplace etiquette, the outlet suggested checking your email in a timely fashion as to not miss deadlines or meetings.

You Majored in What? Mapping Your Path from Chaos to Career, $9, Amazon

2. You Aren’t In Control Of Your Reactions

Your boss swings by your desk to tell you an issue has come up, and everyone will need to work late tonight. Without pause, you get instantly upset and angry. At work, we should all aim to control our emotions and reactions the best we can — so for those of us who have a hard time doing so, it might be time to start practicing the habit. According to Dr. Kristen Lee Costa, a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in combating work stress, who spoke to Fast Company, we need to be OK with that things aren’t always going to go our way, particularly in the workplace. We might get dragged into projects we hate, or forced to work with coworkers we don’t click with, but we should strive to be as flexible as possible and reign back our emotions at work.

3. You Leave Your Table Manners Behind

When I think of etiquette, one of the first things that comes to my mind is how people handle themselves while eating. The Houston Chronicle spoke to business protocol and social etiquette consultant Elizabeth Fountain who noted using poor table manners can affect you negatively at work, too — think that business dinner you have with your clients. Always aim to use your best manners there. In fact, Fountain cited to the outlet an example of someone who was at a business dinner and used his dinner napkin to blow his nose instead of wipe his mouth. Turns out, the poor manners blew a contract for a business deal for the poor guy.

4. You Recap Your One Night Stand Stories To The Masses

According to Woman’s Day, you should keep your personal stories at home if you want to excel at work. This means saving those detailed sexcapades as a conversation topic for your roommate — not one to be having in front of your boss. 

5. You’re The Stand-Out Noise Maker On Conference Calls

Really, though — how annoying is it when you’re on an important conference call and someone else on the line is making an unbearable amount of noise? In my opinion… so annoying. According to Monster.com, being the conference call noise maker is one of the top bad habits you can have at work. Not only is it driving the other people on the call crazy, it’s also making you come across as flat out rude. In the future, try to pipe it down.

6. You Can’t Seem To Get Off Of Social Media

Here, I’m not just referring to a habit of wasting your day away on social media (which is obviously not in the best interest of your work), I’m also talking about a knack for sharing workplace thoughts on social media as well. Boston.com cited one of their top workplace offenses as an employee’s tendency to post about bad job-related situations. You know your coworkers and bosses could easily find that if they wanted to, right? For that reason, Boston.com suggested keeping things positive online, especially as it pertains to your job.

7. You’re A Little Too Informal With Your Actions

You’re one to kick your feet up on your desk, to crack an inappropriate joke at a coworker’s expense, and to belch on a call. Sometimes we might take an informal workplace and forget it’s still actually a workplace. According to CNN.com, we should always be mindful of our actions at work, especially when we’re interacting with our boss. The outlet recommended being aware of where the line should be drawn (e.g. getting a drink with your boss versus getting embarrassingly hammered with your boss), and sticking to the appropriate side of it. At the end of the day, your boss — above all — has the power to control whether you move up or out, so keep it professional and respectful.

8. You’re Also A Little Too Informal With The Way You Dress

It’s also very common for workplace dress codes to be a bit more informal these days, but it shouldn’t mean you’re showing up to work in pajamas every day. CBS News spoke to Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach, Inc. and author of the upcoming book, Poised For Success, who noted, “Being overdressed is better than being under-dressed any day because you can always eliminate certain clothes like a jacket or a tie.”

Poised for Success, $20, Amazon

9. You Don’t Stop Complaining

Does it feel like every other sentence that comes out of your mouth at work is a complaint? Nix the habit — it’s in bad taste. According to Fast Company, what might begin as a simple complaint here and there to a coworker can quickly escalate to you only focusing on the bad things about your job. Costa told the outlet, “We get something out of commiserating with others. However, 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.”

10. You Fib Far Too Often

A little lie on a spreadsheet here, a little fib to your client there — no big deal right? Actually, it can be. “The surest way for any of us to bring our career to a sudden and miserable end is to have the habit of hedging the truth and lying in ways small and large,” Ann Kaiser Stearns, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Living Through Personal Crisis told Forbes. “Dishonesty is a slippery slope with a devastating crash waiting at the end.” To avoid that dreaded ending, make it a habit of being honest all the time at work, without fail. 

Living Through Personal Crisis, $12, Amazon

11. You Never Silence Your Phone

It might seem like common sense to silence your phone before heading into a big meeting, yet some people still neglect to do so. It’s one thing if you forget — but if you deliberately keep it on without thinking twice about it, you should stop. Boston.com said to avoid interrupting other people’s days with your added noise and distraction, silence your phone. The outlet also suggested taking personal calls in private (No one needs to hear you fight with your SO over the cubicle wall every day!).

12. You Curse All The Time

Have a potty mouth? Clean it up in the office. Huffington Post reported on a CareerBuilder survey that showed over half of employers said they would be less likely to promote someone who curses at work. So, maybe consider keeping that language at home if you have a more formal work environment.

13. You’re The Type To Barge Through A Closed Door

If your boss’ door is closed, it’s likely that way for a good reason. Think before you barge through it. Woman’s Day cited this as one of their top office etiquette rules. Why? It can be super distracting to whoever is on the other side of the door, and it can make you are the one stampeding through it come across as impolite. If you need to speak to this person right away, try giving them a call or shooting them an email to see if they have a moment to speak. In the most extreme cases when you need them immediately, knock before entering at the very least.

Now that you’ve been schooled on some bad workplace etiquette, you can start to ditch some of these poor habits in order to be the best you can be on the job. Drop these habits and you might just notice you’re excelling quicker than ever before.

Images: Pexels (3); Pixabay (11)

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