5 Subtle Bad Habits That Ruin Your Reputation at Work
It takes precisely 66 days to form a habit. Yes, when you first started your job, you were probably on your best behavior, but science suggests that after just two months, our brains kick into autopilot, and routine takes hold. What kind of habits have you formed?
While January has your sights firmly fixed on achieving the career of our dreams, research shows there are a few bad habits you need to kick in order to get there. From relying too much on email to striving for perfection, experts believe these niggling bad habits and limiting beliefs could be standing in the way of your next promotion.
Ready to step it up? You need to address these five self-sabotaging habits stat.
Relying on Email
Email, instant messaging, and social media make it easy to avoid an uncomfortable conversation in the workplace, but Art Papas, founder and CEO of Bullhorn, says relying on digital communication might make you look seriously unprofessional. In an article for Fortune, he explains that if a conversation is important, you should choose a more authentic method than email.
"When emotions run high, your tone can be misconstrued, and email is a terrible vehicle for having heart-to-heart conversations. Even the most genuine sentiment can be read as hostility or sarcasm," he says.
Need to break the habit? Next time you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, whether it's because of a mistake you made or a moment of confrontation, pause before you hit send. If your response could be easily misconstrued, a brief phone call might be all it takes to improve your relationship and appear more professional.
Striving for Perfection
Don't confuse ambition with the desire for perfection—studies suggest the latter could actually be bad for your career. Psychiatrists Maurice Schweitzer and Adam Galinsky believe that striving to be seen as perfect in the workplace can limit your ability to earn trust. In their book, Friend and Foe, the duo point to a 1966 study that, in fact, found minor yet endearing mistakes could make you seem more likable.
Researchers found that the secret to gaining trust among your colleagues is striking a balance between warmth and competence. People who make small mistakes, like dropping a pencil in a meeting or spilling coffee, were seen as vulnerable, likable, and trustworthy.
"By making yourself vulnerable, it is possible to build trust in less time than it takes to mop up a spilled latte," they write. The take-home: Trying too hard to impress others by hiding your mistakes doesn't do you any favors. Don't be afraid to show your relatable, goofy side.
Not Talking to Your Team IRL
A member of your team receives a promotion or achieves a big work milestone: How do you congratulate them? If your default response is to send them a written message rather than approach them in real life, studies suggest you're making a mistake.
A 2010 Berkeley study found that physical contact is crucial to forming a bond with those around you. Researchers discovered that basketball teams who congratulated players with physical contact—high-fives, hugs, and team huddles—performed better. "The teams that touched the most cooperated the most and won the most," the Berkeley team concluded.
The lesson: A pat on the back or congratulatory hug, where appropriate, could be the key to forming a tightknit team.
Believing You Can Do it All
At the start of your career, you're taught to approach every task with a can-do attitude, but research suggests this mindset could actually derail your productivity. Stanford researchers found that juggling multiple tasks and types of media comes at a serious price. In a study of 100 students, they found that heavy multitaskers consistently underperformed.
"When they're in situations where there are multiple sources of information coming from the external world or emerging out of memory, they're not able to filter out what's not relevant to their current goal," said Anthony Wagner, an associate professor of psychology. "That failure to filter means they're slowed down by that irrelevant information."
Their findings suggest the best method is to approach one task at a time and tune out distractions. At the end of the day, you'll feel in control of your workload and will likely achieve more.
Letting Technology Rule Your Day
Take note of your attention span as you read this article. Are you tempted to check your phone? Does an email notification draw your eyes away? Letting the constant influx of messages and notifications rule your day isn't just a poor time management skill; it's also causing your stress levels to skyrocket.
A report by London-based Future Work Centre called email a "toxic source of stress," claiming that two of the most stressful work habits are leaving email on all day and checking it early in the morning and late at night.
The solution: "You may want to consider launching your email application when you want to use email and closing it down for periods when you don't wish to be interrupted by incoming emails," the authors recommend. "In other words, use email when you intend to, not just because it's always running in the background."
Struggling to switch off? Follow these tips to de-stress, even when you're surrounded by people.