Whether or not you're working in a formal office environment, you want to maintain a level of professionalism no matter where you go or who you're interacting with. Even if you're dressing sharply and networking like a pro, you may be making some other mistakes that make you look unprofessional. There's no need to stifle your personality or change yourself to fit a mold, but you also want to respect those you interact with and maintain a composure that makes you seem both likable and reliable.
"It's never just this one job or this department of people — it's your career," says career coach Lauree Ostrofsky over email. "Be professional for yourself. Show up the way you want to be seen and treated. More than how others respond, you're sending a message to yourself that you're serious, that you want the best for yourself, that you'll work hard to get it, and that you're worth it."
Every work environment is different, so there isn't necessarily one correct way to act always. However, there are some general guidelines you can follow to help enhance your working relationships. Here are nine mistakes to avoid that can make you look unprofessional, no matter your career.
1Being Perpetually Late
Whether it's getting to work on time or meeting a deadline, nothing says “I don’t care” more than habitual tardiness. "Those who value professionalism will have a difficult time respecting someone who is constantly late," says counselor and life coach Monte Drenner over email. "Professionals understand the importance of being on time and will make it their practice."
2Writing Sloppy Emails
Some of us get bombarded with emails daily, so it's hard to keep up. But using poor grammar or writing an unclear email can seem unprofessional. "It makes you seem like you don't care or don't pay enough attention to detail," says life coach Nina Rubin, M.A. over email.
It's one thing to talk about your weekend, but it's another to consistently speak about your coworkers' business or talk about them in a negative way. "Your coworkers won't trust you or want to befriend you," says Rubin.
4Regularly Getting Too Drunk At Happy Hours
You should be able to enjoy spending time with your coworkers — and we've all made a mistake or two when it comes to going overboard with the booze — but you don't want to make getting wasted a regular occurrence. "Even if you and your coworkers become close friends, it's important to maintain a level of professionalism and trustworthiness, as you see each other daily," says Rubin. "When you stop working together, you can let your guard down a little more."
5Being Overly Opinionated
"We all have opinions, but there are those who feel the need to tell as many people as possible their opinion on as many subjects as possible," says Drenner. "People like this are viewed as narrow-minded and difficult to be around. Professionals know when to express an opinion and when to abstain."
6Being Bossy To People You Don't Manage
"Being bossy in not professional even if you are the boss," says Drenner. "No one likes being bossed around by anyone else. Professionals will treat others with respect and dignity even in times of stress."
7Wearing Inappropriate Clothing
It's important to dress the part, even if that doesn't require wearing a suit and heels daily. "Wearing clothes that are appropriate for the workplace is essential," says life coach Mitzi Bockmann over email. "Appropriate is different for different workplaces, but appropriate is key. Save the shorts and midriff bearing t-shirts for vacation days."
8Taking Criticism Personally
You're bound to make mistakes at work, but you can't let them affect you in an unreasonable way. "Workplace criticism or feedback is meant for one reason only — to improve workplace performance," says Bockmann. "If you take it personally or get defensive or emotional, you are not acting professionally. See feedback for what it is: a way to improve your job performance."
9Being Too Stubborn
Be careful not to insist that it's your way or the highway. "In this day and age, teamwork is key, and any employee who insists that they are the only one who knows what is best will lose the respect of their coworkers and superiors," says Bockmann.