10 Unprofessional Habits That Could Kill Your Career


If you're like most people, you've put a lot of time, energy, and money into your career. And you know that getting ahead in that career takes conscious (sometimes herculean) effort. With all you've invested, don't let a few bad habits drag you down the corporate ladder. Here are 10 unprofessional habits that could kill your career.

1. Ignoring the finer points of email

Sure, it's quick and casual, but electronic communication comes with its own set of rules. Crafting long-winded emails, not responding to messages in a timely fashion, typing in all caps, and forgetting to include fundamentals — like a personal salutation, or a please and a thank you — are all email no-no's. (See also: 10 Things You Should Never Say in a Work Email)

2. Using grade school grammar

In speech or in writing, stupid grammar mistakes can make you look uneducated and hurt your professional prospects. Polish your image by reviewing the fundamentals of good grammar, becoming more aware of how you communicate, and proofreading every word you write.

3. Dressing for a demotion

Though most work environments are casual these days, that doesn't mean anything goes. If you're confusing business casual with clubwear, wearing wrinkled shirts and slacks, and letting your pant cuffs drag on the floor, you're dressing for a demotion. Pay attention to wardrobe fundamentals like condition, fit, cleanliness, seasonality, and suitability. (See also: Build a Work Wardrobe for Any Job on a Budget)

4. Constant questioning

Asking questions is smart up to a point, but cross that invisible line and you become a drain on management. When given a new assignment or a different set of responsibilities, get all the information you can up front and then show your initiative by figuring out the rest as you go along.

5. Always being late

Arriving chronically late to work or meetings shows a disregard for your professional commitments, your coworkers' time, and your job in general. Protect your professional image by being punctual, or even better, showing up a few minutes early.

6. Taking sides in office politics

Nearly every workplace suffers from a bit of office politics. Choosing sides carries two risks: First, it takes your eye off the most crucial aspects of your job — performing well, learning all you can, and moving up. Second, you could simply align yourself with the wrong (that is, losing) side and suffer the direct or indirect consequences. Stay employed by diligently avoiding office politics goofs.

7. Displaying terrible table manners

Client dinners, lunch meetings, and all-day networking events are part of modern work life and opportunities to showcase your professional refinement. If your eating style is reminiscent of a bear fresh out of hibernation, it might be time to brush up on the basics of good table manners. (See also: 13 Things People With Good Table Manners Never Do)

8. Swearing like a sailor

No offense to professional sailors, but swearing in most work settings is a career-limiting communication habit. Even if it's the norm where you work, using profanity shows that you're not articulate enough to come up with more acceptable language. It may also make you appear quick to anger and unable to work through challenges constructively.

9. Bringin' the drama

How do you make tear-filled stories of sudden breakups, unfair arrests, and credit card problems even worse? You share those stories on the job and get fired. Constantly bringing personal issues into the workplace implies a problem with boundaries and a lack of professional focus. Save the drama for close friends and only discuss it outside of work.

10. Proselytizing

Proselytizing is just a fancy word for promoting a particular belief or attempting to convert people from one religion to another. Living your faith is one thing, but pushing it at work is quite another. Belief systems are intensely personal — the result of life experience, cultural influences, and long family histories. Don't alienate your coworkers or risk your job by making your personal faith a professional matter.

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