11 Common Little Work Habits That Can Be Unprofessional

by Carina Wolff

Whether you're someone who works at a traditional office or more modern tech company, everyone wants to do their job well and feel respected. How you act at work plays a big role in how your colleagues will view you, which means you'll want to avoid any little habits that can seem unprofessional. Most of us know the obvious things to avoid — don't be rude to your boss, don't show up drunk, etc. — but there are a number smaller habits that might seem okay but are actually harming your work reputation.

"Being a professional is not just about doing your work," says career coach and business consultant Deena Baikowitz over email. "It’s also about how you do your work, how you interact with others, how you behave at work, after work, at networking events, volunteer causes, and how you act and interact in all aspects of your life."

Of course every workplace has its own rules and formalities, but as a general rule of thumb, you should avoid anything controversial. To make sure you're getting the respect you deserve at work — and respecting others — avoid these 11 common habits that you didn't realize seem unprofessional at work.


Using Your Phone All Day


It's hard to completely distance yourself from your cell phone, but unless you need it for business purposes having your phone on your desk all day long and checking Instagram and Snapchat frequently can seem unprofessional. "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," says etiquette expert Sharon Schweitzer over email. "Try to leave your phone in your bag or pocket."


Using Speech Fillers


Saying "um" and "like" isn't going to tarnish your reputation, but it can make you seem less professional than someone who is a little more well-spoken. "These speech-fillers can convey a lack of intelligence or confidence," says Schweitzer. "A brief pause is better than yet another 'like.'"


Not Greeting People


Make a habit of saying "Good morning" to everyone when you arrive at the office, and remember to say "Goodbye” to all your coworkers when you leave. "No matter how many emails you’ve sent today, begin with a polite greeting and end with a kind sign-off," says Schweitzer. "Forgetting to say 'Thank you' or to smile when you greet your coworkers may convey a negative attitude, so don’t let your manners slip."


Always Arriving Late


Sometimes events happen that are out of our control, but strolling in even a few minutes late every day makes you seem unprofessional. "When you’re not there on time, your coworkers may begin to question your reliability or think that you consider your time more important than theirs," says Schweitzer. "Be present at the appropriate time."


Taking A Long Time To Answer Someone's Email


Many of us get swamped with emails daily, so it's not always possible to get back to everyone right away. But if you can't answer their questions immediately, let them know you need some time. "If you don't have an answer, it's best to email and let them know you'll get back to them," says etiquette expert Diane Gottsman over email. "When you ignore any email, it looks as if the person is not important."


Interrupting Others


It's not polite to interrupt others in general, but many people tend to speak over their bosses and colleagues. "Your colleagues don't want to be lectured to, and they want their ideas and insights to get the same attention as yours," says career counselor Roy Cohen over email.



"When you share private information about your colleagues, whether it is true or false, you are seen as a gossip and as an individual not to be trusted," says Cohen. "Everyone loves to hear gossip — so you may feel like you are isolated — but no one wants to be the subject of a rumor or a disclosure that should not have been shared. Ultimately, you are viewed as untrustworthy and as a problem."


Oversharing Your Personal Life To Management


"Even if you think you and your boss are friends, she needn’t know all the details of your last breakup or last Saturday night," says success strategist Carlota Zimmerman, J.D. over email. It's good to be friendly with the people you work with, but you don't want to overstep boundaries.


Dressing Inappropriately


There isn't one exact way to dress, and every office has a different dress code, but people do tend to make impressions based on what you wear. "If you’re feeling frustrated and ignored at the office, be honest: Have you worn the same sweats, hoodie, and scuffed up flats for six weeks?" says Zimmerman. You don't need to wear makeup and heels everyday, but take pride in your appearance, and skip anything that could seem inappropriate or sloppy.


Cursing A Lot


For some, it's no big deal, but for others, profanity makes people very uncomfortable. "You want management to trust you, trust your professionalism, trust that you know what you’re doing, and to many people, the constant cursing lowers their esteem," says Zimmerman.


Complaining Frequently


No one likes a Debbie Downer. "If there is something that’s bothering you — about a client project, a design issue, a project tool, bad coffee, or something equally important — don’t endlessly kvetch to anyone and everyone who will listen," says Baikowitz. "Analyze the problem, research solutions, engage others to help, and present the issue, along with your ideas, at an appropriate time with the appropriate people."