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Bad Habits That Get in the Way at Work (and How to Fix Them)

Aug 2, 2022 10:00:00 AM
By Linda Trzyna

in career advancement

Bad work habits, like any other bad habit, can creep up on you. Before you know it, you find yourself stuck in a behavior that is unhelpful or even damaging.

A bad work habit could be just a minor irritation. Conversely, poor work habits may decrease your productivity, make you late for meetings, miss deadlines and cause unnecessary stress for yourself and your co-workers. Left unchecked, a bad work habit could even stall your career.

Define ‘Bad Habit’

Indeed defines bad workplace habits as “negative behaviors that have become a pattern.” Poor behaviors can pop up occasionally. They may cause problems, however, if they start to occur regularly. Identifying and fixing bad work habits can improve your productivity, your working relationships and the way you feel about your job.

What Are Your Bad Habits?

Think about areas where you might struggle during the day. Are you often distracted by what’s going on around you, by a steady stream of emails or a compulsion to check your phone? Do you have trouble figuring out which project to work on first?

Avoiding work, becoming distracted at work or having trouble staying organized at work could be signs of a bad habit that needs to be addressed.

Let’s focus on four negative work habits and how you can break them.

Easily Distracted

Distractions around you can reduce your concentration, affect your productivity and even increase work-related stress. If you find your attention frequently straying from your work, you need to find ways to help yourself focus.

Is your phone luring you? Put it in a drawer or somewhere inconveniently out of reach.

If there’s a lot of noise around your office, try listening to music or even wearing noise-canceling headphones.

Too many incoming emails? Silence email notifications and set automatic replies explaining that you will respond as soon as you are able.


If disorganization disrupts your workday, take a little time to declutter. Clear your desk and digital workspace. Store files where you can easily locate them.

Utilize the technology you have available to keep you on track. For instance, use your digital calendar to schedule some dedicated work time during the day.

Better yet, set up a planner and plot out your entire week, so you can view all your current projects at a glance. If a large project is looming, set a goal to work on part of it each day.

End your week by writing down the tasks you want to tackle first thing Monday morning. You may find it helpful to make notes about your progress or sticking points. By unburdening your mind of everything you need to remember for Monday, you can relax on the weekend and start the new week ready to go.

Abusing Work Privileges

Recently, many workers have come to enjoy the freedom of hybrid and remote work options.

However, abusing work privileges can create problems. No one wants to be the worker caught online shopping on company time or discovered having lunch out with friends when you were supposed to be working from home. (Companies commonly track their employees’ social media posts.)

“Once these behaviors are noticed by management and team members, it can be really detrimental for your future career outlook, as the trust that you’ll get things done without supervision is gone,” says Lars Sudmann, executive coach and leadership speaker, in an article for Monster.

Instead, says Monster, respect the freedoms you have, so you don’t lose them. “If you’re a remote employee, frequently check in to show you’re on the ball.”

Being Negative

Is there someone you avoid at work because they’re always complaining? Don’t let that person be you.

Having a negative attitude can affect your work performance and your relationships with your co-workers.

If you’ve been feeling grumpy at work, try to figure out why.

“You can improve your negativity and have a more positive outlook by understanding what is frustrating you and exploring ways to improve it,” says Indeed. “You may need to speak with your manager to see if you can delegate some of your work to others, work a more flexible schedule or focus more on what makes you happy in the workplace.”

Signs of a Bigger Issue?

Your bad work habit could be a sign that something in your life needs to change. If that involves a change in your career, maybe it’s time to explore new opportunities. Start your search with TPD today!

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