Whether you’re just starting out in your career or you’re years in, the habits you develop at work can massively influence your success—both in your current role as well as throughout your career. While positive habits can make it easier to build credibility, less constructive ones may prove inhibitive to building relationships, gaining influence in your team and company, and ultimately progressing in your career.
If you catch yourself picking up any of the following habits, use the following tips to recover before it becomes damaging:
Some people can’t help but procrastinate, and some of us operate at our highest level when put under time pressure. But regardless of your working style, being known as a procrastinator at work can damage your reputation if not handled appropriately.
If you’re that person who’s always running around to avert a crisis, for example, colleagues and managers may be reticent to hand over time-sensitive or stressful projects—which are sometimes the projects which will win you a raise or greater visibility within the company.
Perhaps more important than trying to change your working style entirely is having a self-awareness of how you operate, and adjusting your outward communication and pre-planning accordingly. If you prefer to work under pressure, for instance, putting off work a bit might not be a bad thing (and can still give you that adrenaline rush of working against the clock)—but try to avoid complaining about how stressed you are or asking colleagues for favors in order to pull things off at the last minute. Instead, allow yourself some procrastination, but do put a plan in place which will allow you to deliver a high-quality output, on time, without asking others to fill the gaps for you.
Don’t take this in the wrong way: There is a time and place for apologizing. However, apologizing for everything that goes wrong, no matter how big or small, can erode your colleagues’ confidence in your abilities (not to mention your own self-confidence).
Further, research shows that gender impacts how often people apologize. While men and women apologize just as frequently in response to offenses they’ve committed, men have a higher threshold for what constitutes an “offense”—resulting in fewer apologies. Women in the workplace should thus be particularly aware of this potentially damaging habit.
In order to course-correct, start by monitoring yourself for when the habit shows up. Being mindful of your own behavior can help, but you might also ask friendly colleagues to point it out for you. Once you have a better understanding of when you fall into apologizing, prepare in advance for those situations by reframing your “sorry” as something more positive. Lastly, take note of your colleagues’ reactions, which can often function as positive reinforcement that you’re heading in the right direction.
When it comes to missing the mark on your communication style, the overuse of jargon and/or pretentious-sounding vocabulary is a key offender which can quickly undermine your credibility.
If you leave people guessing at what you’re trying to say, they’ll likely miss the point entirely and may take your word choice as evidence that you’re trying to cover up lack of actual knowledge with fancy phrasing. Less experienced employees sometimes adopt this habit (often unintentionally!) to compensate for the fact that they’re still learning, but this will only get you so far and will likely annoy your colleagues along the way.
Instead, focus on simplifying your communication style from the beginning, asking yourself if the words you’re using are really necessary to getting the message across—and, if not, how you can strip out jargon and other unnecessary words to get to the point faster.
Start with self-awareness
Regardless of which bad habit you’re trying to correct, the first step should always be gaining the self-awareness to be able to identify when you fall back on it, and what might trigger it. Once you start to realize when and why the undesirable behavior arises, you can start introducing better alternatives whenever you come across a trigger.
Building good habits is rarely an easy process, but the hard work pays off in the end—and constantly pushing towards better behaviors at work can do wonders for your professional reputation, both immediately as well as in the longer-term as you progress through your career.