11 Everyday Mistakes That Make You Look Unprofessional at Work


Your professional reputation is worth its weight in gold. It is a delicate, valuable asset that, when untarnished, can work in your favor and help to propel you along a successful career path where you’ll likely be rewarded with good relationships, fruitful collaborations, exciting opportunities, sought-after promotions and salary increases, and overall advancement.

Likewise, consistently unprofessional behavior will drag you down in the eyes of your colleagues, peers, and superiors, even squashing your chances to move up or take on more responsibility.

Make sure you’re never associated with any of these reputation-killing, unprofessional behaviors that could have a lasting impact on your career:

1. Lateness: Everyone is late once and a while, but consistent lateness is one of the worst habits to get into that can really damage your reputation with your colleagues.

2. Not answering emails: You may not answer every single email right away; no one should expect this level of punctuality. Actually, this kind of 24/7 instantaneous connectivity on email can interfere with your wider productivity level and put you in a “response” mode instead of a “proactive” mode… But, always being difficult to get a hold of via email puts you behind in your workload and only frustrates your colleagues.  

3. Being unreliable in general: In short, do what you say you will. Speak and act with consistency, clarity, and reliability, and you will enjoy a strong, long-lasting reputation in your field.

4. Spending too much time on your phone: If you’re constantly on your phone texting, talking, or checking social media, your colleagues will perceive that you are completely “checked out” of your job and clueless about workplace professionalism.

5. A bad attitude: This can include a lot of different unprofessional behaviors like gossiping, complaining, always interrupting, lying, over-sharing, or in general just having a sour attitude towards your team members and your projects. If you’re that unhappy (and it will show), perhaps it’s time to look for a new opportunity somewhere else before you do too much damage to your reputation, which you don’t want to follow you to your next job.

6. Always on social media: This is a common workplace bad habit, but avoid checking your social media accounts throughout the day. First of all, it comes across as a little juvenile, but secondly, it’s just wholly inappropriate, not to mention a big distraction for you.

7. Groom yourself: This is kind of a no-brainer, but doing things like touching up your nail polish, brushing your hair, putting on makeup, or in general grooming yourself in any way is just a no-no. Similarly, whether it’s fair or not, your overall appearance can also affect your professional reputation. If you’re always looking a little rumpled and not put together (or worse, sloppy or inappropriate), it’s a glaring sign of unprofessionalism.

8. Using inappropriate language/jokes: This is subjective and depends on your work environment, but, when in doubt as to what language is or isn’t acceptable, always err on the side of caution. While your colleagues may laugh in the moment at an off-color joke or a well-timed obscenity, always being associated with crude language is not good for your career or reputation.

9. Appearing unengaged: Rolling your eyes when people are speaking, falling asleep or daydreaming in meetings, not paying attention, never contributing, coming in unprepared… All these things indicate that you’re not invested in or excited about your job and gives the appearance that you just don’t care.

10. Taking credit for everything (or not giving credit where it’s due): One of the most important professional skills to develop is learning how and when to take credit while also giving credit to your team members. If you aren’t able to lift up the people around you, not only will they start to resent you and perceive you as sneaky or untrustworthy (very unprofessional), but your superiors or company leadership will get a good idea of your character, or lack thereof. Don’t think this won’t affect their decision-making process if you come up for a promotion.

11. Having an unsightly office: As Albert Einstein is famously rumoured to have said, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” But, there’s a point when “cluttered” just becomes dirty or disgusting. Don’t let your personal workspace cross this cleanliness line; you don’t want to get a reputation as the office “Pig-Pen.”

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