13 Habits That Might (Sneakily) Be Making You Look Unprofessional At Work

Adobe Stock

Woman at work

Adobe Stock

The idea of what’s “professional” has largely changed over the years. Email and social media have made communication more casual, and in most industries, what you wear to work probably looks quite different from how employees dressed for similar jobs 30 years ago. But some habits just never look good -- so if you want to maintain your reputation and avoid embarrassment, you better make sure you’re not doing these 13 things while at work:

1. Taking tons of personal phone calls.

Everyone has a life outside of work, so the occasional quick phone call to your doctor or sister is no big deal. But no one wants to hear you arguing with your husband or talking about the rash on your foot for more than a few minutes. So save the personal conversations for post-work hours -- or if you’re dealing with something urgent, take the call outside or in an area where you won’t be bothering your colleagues.

2. Catching up on Instagram.

We all get distracted by social media sometimes, but you must minimize your scrolling when you’re at the office. There’s a time (after work) and a place (on your couch) to get up-to-speed on what your best friend’s cousin made for breakfast. If you use social media for your job, don’t think for a second that your coworkers won’t realize if you’re looking at your friend’s new engagement photos rather than whatever’s relevant to your company.

3. Sending snapchats.

As hard as it is to resist seeing what you look like as a dog, wait. ’til. you. get. home. Those filters aren’t going to disappear overnight (OK, some of them are), but taking snapchat selfies at work (or any kind of selfies, for that matter) is never a good look.

4. Being (chronically) late.

We’re all a few minutes late sometimes....especially if we’re depending on unreliable public transportation. But while the occasional five-minute tardiness might be understood, it’s not cool to show up half an hour late every day. Not only does it make you seem like you don’t have you’re a hot mess together, but it also makes your co-workers resent you for not being respectful of their time.

5. Whining.

It’s not cute. Sometimes you just need to vent, but don’t overdo it -- especially at work. If you’re struggling not to complain about something work-related, talk to your manager about how you can resolve the issue.

6. Gossiping. 

We all know how it feels to bond over a mutual dislike of something or someone. But too much negativity is never a good thing, and these kinds of conversations can be especially dangerous at work. Stop about your coworkers, because you’re working with them whether you like it or not. If you do want to confide in a friend at work, be productive instead; brainstorm ways to improve your relationship with the colleague who’s pissing you off. 

7. Playing games on your phone.

Whether you’re a Candy Crush fanatic or a Words With Friends pro, work is not the place. Ever.

8. Being passive aggressive.

You’re not in middle school. If something’s bothering you, be polite but upfront about it. 

9. Being messy.

Do what you please at home. But at work, where you’re coexisting with other people for (too many) hours every single day, don’t leave the remnants of your lunch on your desk through the afternoon -- and don’t hoard random crap you’re never going to look at again.

10. Clipping or filing your nails.

Enough said. 

11. Talking with your mouth full.

This isn’t appealing in any context, but among your colleagues, be especially mindful of how gross it can be. If you’re eating at your desk or during a casual meeting, wait to chime in until after you swallow that bite.

12. Calling in “sick.”

“Sick” is in quotes for a reason. If you’re not well, of course you should be resting at home! But don’t call in sick and then Instagram a pic of you and your friend frolicking in the park. Either ask for a day off or go to work -- but don’t lie about your whereabouts. People will catch on.

13. Being unresponsive.

You don’t need to answer emails 24/7. But when something’s important, don’t leave people hanging for longer than you need to. The key to being a team player at work is being communicative, so make sure you’re transparent about what you’re working on and how you’re contributing. 
While being “professional” means different things to different people, we can all agree that there are some basic faux-pas you want to steer clear of at work. Bring your best self (but not selfies) to the office every day to ensure you’ll be able to work well with your team!


Fairygodboss is committed to improving the workplace and lives of women. 
Join us by reviewing your employer!