12 Ways You're Being a Terrible Employee


You may think that being a good employee is all about doing great work, and nothing more. Actually, that's quite far from the truth. A great employee builds great relationships at work, takes the initiative, and cares about the success of the company. If you are making four or more of the following blunders at work, you're quickly on your way to becoming a terrible employee. (See also: 12 Reasons You Deserve to Get Fired)

1. You're All About the Gossip

Every workplace has gossip and rumors. Good employees will ignore it, brush it off, or just avoid talking about anything that is idle chatter. Bad employees, however, relish the opportunity to talk about anything from company problems and other coworkers, to rumors of layoffs, mergers, or people about to get fired.

If you find yourself being drawn into watercooler gossip, you have several options. First, you can simply make an excuse and walk away. Or, you can deftly change the subject to something non-gossip related. Finally, you can always talk to HR about some of the malicious gossip flying around, and they should look into it.

2. You Are Never on Time

Late for work. Late for meetings. Late for everything. Some people consider lateness to be the height of bad manners, and they have a point. When you are late, you are saying, "my time is more important than your time," or even "I really don't care what you think, I'll turn up when I'm ready." Maybe you're just really bad with time management, or you have a rotten commute that makes it hard to get in on time. But if everyone else in the office can get in on time, you really have no excuse. Use your smartphone to give you alerts well before your workday begins, so you have plenty of time to get where you're going. Do what you can to be on time, because nothing says "terrible employee" like someone who isn't even around.

3. You Complain — A Lot

We all have gripes with our jobs. There is no perfect workplace, and there will always be things that could be better. Yes, it's fine to bring up issues when they need to be addressed. But there is a big difference between occasionally alerting your boss to an issue, and whining in every meeting and one-on-one. They say that the "squeaking wheel gets the grease" and to some extent, that's true. However, in a work environment, it is usually much easier to replace that squeaking wheel. If you have complaints, see what you can do by yourself to solve them. If the issue is with a coworker, talk it out with them first. If there is a problem with equipment, or scheduling, bring solutions to the table. Don't be "that" employee — the one everyone avoids talking to because they cannot stand the tirade of negativity coming their way.

4. You Won't Do Anything Beyond Your Job Description

No doubt you have heard something like this coming from a coworker; "Look, I'm not paid to do that, so I'm not doing it." Or, "That's not my job, why should I?" It is not uncommon these days for job descriptions to be very fluid as technology advances, and cutbacks hit firms everywhere. Sometimes, what you're being asked to do may be well beyond your job description, but if you can do what is being asked of you, step up and do it. The chances are, everyone is being asked to hit a few curveballs, and deal with things outside of their usual scope of work. Do your part, chip in, and you'll be valued. If it gets ridiculous, though, then you have the right to say something. You should not be doing the jobs of two or three people, but at least show your commitment before raising concerns.

5. You Spend Too Much Time Slacking Off

The distractions are everywhere. Many of us work on computers every day, and the Internet is right there, beckoning us. A few minutes shopping on Amazon, read the latest headlines, then a quick check of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and SnapChat. Before you know it, you've spent an hour or more doing nothing productive. This is actually stealing. Your employer is paying you for that time, and you should be doing the work they pay you for.

6. You Take Credit for Work Others Have Done

Nothing kills morale in a workplace like someone else taking the glory for a project that isn't theirs. If you have ever done this, or do it often, you are being a terrible employee. Businesses operate on the idea that it's a team environment, with each person doing his or her part to make the whole company successful. By swooping in and taking credit for the hard work other people have done, you are creating an atmosphere of distrust and negativity. Coworkers will be less likely to share with you, communication will break down, and the whole department you work in can become soured and tough to work for. If you are given credit for a job by accident, step up immediately and tell the boss who actually did the work.

7. You Abuse Those Sick Days

Coming in to work sick is bad enough. You're not going to be at your best, and you run the risk of giving other people in the office your illness. But what's worse is doing it so you can call in sick when you're perfectly healthy to enjoy a day off. Sick days are there for a reason. The company is giving you paid time off to heal, or feel better. To abuse this so you can go to a ball game or spend a day by the pool is just not fair, to anyone. Next time you're sick, use a sick day. When you need a personal day, use one of your vacation days.

8. You Make a Lot of Mistakes

We're all human. We all make mistakes, and the occasional error here or there should never be cause for concern (unless those errors result in something catastrophic). However, if your work is always coming back to you for revisions, or your manager receives constant complaints of poor quality work, then you need to get your act together. Whether it's constant grammatical errors in an office environment, to shoddy work on a building site, mistakes made weekly, or even daily, should not be tolerated. Plus, it often falls on other employees to fix your errors, burdening them with extra work because you can't get it right. In this case, you must try harder to clean up your act.

9. You Play the Blame Game

Finger pointing is one aspect of office politics that never fails to cause problems. When something goes wrong, if you're one of the first people to start assigning blame to others, you're not being a team player. Yes, maybe it was Janice in accounting who messed up. But maybe you should talk to her first and see what happened. Maybe it was really you, but you know you can slime your way out of it by throwing blame in someone else's direction. Don't be a finger pointer. If you made a mistake, own it. If someone else did, let him or her fess up. You don't want to be seen as the one who rats at the first opportunity.

10. You Swear Like a Sailor

Admittedly, there are some workplaces that have no problem with this kind of language. Certainly most places involving manual labor are not going to care about f-bombs. But in a professional environment, swearing constantly is just not… well, professional. Imagine having a meeting with a lawyer about an important case, and being greeted with a tirade of colorful language more at home in a Guy Ritchie movie. Would you trust this lawyer? Does he or she seem like the best person for the job? Maybe you'll go with the lawyer who doesn't sound like Vinnie Jones. Swearing in meetings can also make people feel uncomfortable, to the point that they will speak to HR about it. This will reflect badly on your manager, and your department, and bad language can actually be viewed as harassment.

11. You Steal

What's a few paperclips, right? Or a ream of paper? And hey, why pay for toilet paper when you can grab a couple of rolls from the bathroom? It may not feel like you're doing anything wrong when you take a items worth pennies. However, multiply this by every employee in the building, and suddenly your company is losing thousands of dollars every year in "liberated" goods. If you need the items to work from home, that's fair enough. But if you're snagging paper from the copier to print out your tax returns, or taking coffee filters for your machine at home, you are stealing from your employer. It's not a gray area. It's theft.

12. You're Not Proactive

Imagine being a firefighter and walking into a burning building only to see a fellow firefighter standing there watching it burn. "Why aren't you putting out this fire?!" you yell. He or she responds with, "You didn't ask me to." That may seem like a ridiculous scenario, and it would never happen because firefighters know better. But in other places, it happens all the time. Good employees will take the initiative. They will solve problems without being asked. They will initiate new projects that can benefit the company. Bad employees will wait for the order, and do nothing until it is given. Don't sit there waiting to be asked. What can you do to help? What can you do to create opportunities? Be the go-getter.

Does this sound like you or any of your coworkers?

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Guest's picture

If an employee is doing these things, then the work is boring and mind numbing. The company deserves to go out of business.

Guest's picture

"You Won't Do Anything Beyond Your Job Description" Maybe if companies paid people better they would be more likely to help with other thing but I hear companies say all he time the "you get what you pay for." Maybe the employers should think about that statement when they constantly ask for more work for no additional pay. When you are already paying someone less than a living wage, you don't deserve more work out of that employee. This list is pathetic and assumes that an employer is fair which there isn't one that is fair.

Guest's picture

Excellent points. We all need to take responsibility for our work and our actions. We can't control anything but our own actions, and we can work on improving out attitude towards our work. If everyone worked on improving in these areas, we'd all have better work environments.

Guest's picture

I happen to do a lot of all these things mentioned. It's probably because my job is completely mind-numbing.