4 Bad Work Habits You Should Break Before Age 35

Losing these 4 negative work habits before your 35th birthday will keep your career on track.

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Taylor Tobin1.84k
April 20, 2024 at 11:16PM UTC

Let’s start off with this: in the year 2018, age-based milestones hold less meaning than ever before. We live in a time when “adolescence” can extend well into your 20s, when the sexist stereotype of the 30-something “old maid” is (thankfully) dead and buried, and when the average retirement age keeps (unfortunately) creeping upwards. 

That said, the popular imagination continues to think of 35 as a prime age to “have your life together," particularly where your career is concerned. While it’s completely okay (and, in fact, totally normal) to still be working toward your dream title and salary in your mid-thirties, you now have over a decade of work experience under your belt. That  gives you the wisdom and perspective to set aside some not-so-great work habits that may have hindered your progress in the past — like these 4 habits you've hopefully dashed by age 35. 

1. Allowing emails to go unanswered.

Everyone experiences incredibly stressful times at work, which can result in an overflowing inbox. On an occasional basis, forgetting to reply to a time-sensitive email is an understandable human error, and sensible supervisors won’t hold it against you. But if you’ve been reminded to reply to emails quickly and still regularly let messages fall through the cracks, you’ll be doing potentially-irreparable damage to your professional reputation. 

Whether you choose to set reminders in your calendar, flag high-priority emails, or take advantage of built-in inbox features that help you reply in a timely fashion — like Gmail’s new “Nudge” offering, bringing emails without replies to the top of your inbox after a couple of days — making expedient replies a top priority will establish you as organized, respectful of your colleagues and clients, and generally on-top-of-it. 

2. Avoiding phone conversations at all costs.

If you’re like many (possibly even most) millennials, you’d much rather deliver and receive information via text or email than settle in for a voice-to-voice phone conversation. And in many fields, the need for phone meetings is quickly dissipating, with email replacing the phone as the primary method of business communication

However, in certain situations (and in certain company cultures), phone calls remain a crucial workplace element. If your company’s senior leadership trends older, you’ll see even more instances of managers demanding phone calls to talk through a new project or offer feedback on a presentation. The more comfortable you feel with expressing yourself over the phone, the better equipped you’ll be to handle different management styles and types of career-related dialogue. 

3. Becoming overly invested in office gossip.

Striking up a warm and friendly rapport with your colleagues can majorly impact your overall job satisfaction, typically nudging it in a positive direction. However, it’s important to keep an eye on professional boundaries. And if your particular coterie of coworkers enjoys engaging in regular bouts of office gossip, it’s better to keep your distance. Because close coworker relationships often result in troublesome dynamics within the office, some experts, like psychologist Amy Cooper Hakim, discourage them altogether. 

“I actually argue against having true friends in the workplace, aside from maybe a handful — people you would actually want to be friends with if you didn’t work at that company,” Hakim warned The New York Times. So go ahead and make a work pal or two, but stay mindful of the fact that your office kitchen and the neighborhood bar are drastically different places, so happy-hour-appropriate chats probably won’t fly within the workplace. 

4. Constantly apologizing, even when you’re not at fault.

The snap impulse to apologize, even when you haven’t done anything wrong, plagues women in all aspects of life. The workplace is no exception. Of course, if you have made a legitimate error, it’s practical, courteous, and correct to offer sincere apologies alongside an action plan for rectifying the mistake. But career advancement will come more easily if you strive to rid yourself of the urge to say “I’m sorry” as a placeholder or a space-filler. Save “I’m sorry” for when it’s actually justified, and the words will hold far more weight and substance. 

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