Quit These Three Bad Habits If You Want to Get Ahead at Work

Updated on May 17, 2020
SMD2012 profile image

Sally is a business communications coach who gives workshops on how to keep your professional reputation squeaky-clean and drama-free.

Don't let bad habits trip you up and derail your career.
Don't let bad habits trip you up and derail your career.

If you work hard and put your best foot forward at work every day, it would make sense that you'll make steady advances forward in your job, and ultimately in your career. But these days, hard work alone is not enough to keep you moving ahead at steady clip. These days, employers are looking for so much more. They're looking for people with the right attitude: a winning combination of solid emotional boundaries, strong self-confidence, and impeccable communications skills. Here are some common behaviors and attitudes that could be standing between you and steady progress up the career ladder.

Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people.

— Socrates

Bad Habit #1: Gossiping

Talking about other people without including them in the conversation is one of the worst bad habits you could have at work. What’s the difference between a bit of water-cooler chit-chat and harmful office gossip? How do you know if you are a gossip? Here’s a test: The next time you are talking to someone at work in a casual manner and someone else’s name comes up in the conversation, ask yourself how you would feel if you turned around and found them standing behind you? If you’d be embarrassed that the person heard you, then you’ve been gossiping. Quit this bad habit right away because it will hurt your career. It could even hit you in the pocketbook if you get taken to court for harassment and slander.

When it comes to getting rid of bad habits, whether at work or at home, there is something that you can do to improve your chances of success replace the bad habit with a good habit. In the case of gossiping, the good habit that you can replace it with is to find something nice to say about each person bin your office, even the people that sometimes drive you crazy. You can either say the nice thing directly to the person, as long as it is sincere and truthful, or you could simply hold the thought in your head for a moment the next time you feel the urge to start sniping about the other person.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

— Martin Luther King Jr.

Bad Habit #2: Not Speaking Up

Remember in school---high school or college---when your teachers and instructors would include class participation in your final grade? Even if it was just 5% of your overall grade at the end of the semester, getting a 5% boost could mean the difference between getting an average GPA or being nudged up to an above-average GPA. Well, in the school of life, participation at work is just as important to your career as it was when you were in college.

If you are afraid of speaking up at work because you’re afraid you might create a conflict with a co-worker, you can read articles or a book about how to deal with conflict in the workplace. That way, instead of trying to avoid conflict all the time you can speak up confidently knowing that if you do inadvertently upset someone, you’ll have the skills to resolve the conflict.

Do you participate fully in staff meetings and brainstorming sessions? If not, you could be holding yourself back and sabotaging your career.
Do you participate fully in staff meetings and brainstorming sessions? If not, you could be holding yourself back and sabotaging your career.

We are prepared for insults, but compliments leave us baffled.

— Mason Cooley

Bad Habit #3: Not Accepting Praise or Compliments

Many people who are unhappy at work will often cite a lack of recognition for all the hours they put in at the office, day in and day out, week after week. These people feel under-appreciated and taken for granted. Yet many of these same people are unable to accept a simple compliment from a colleague---whether it be a compliment on a stylish suit they’re wearing or praise for a nicely designed annual stakeholders report. Instead of graciously saying “Thank you!” when being complimented, they’ll say something self-effacing like “Oh, I’m out of clean laundry so I’m wearing my business clothes today.” Or, “It didn’t take me very long to design that document. I adapted it from some other projects I worked on.”

In the first instance, you’re essentially telling the person who complimented you that wearing sharp clothes at work is not a priority. In the second instance, you’re dismissing your own efforts and giving your boss a reason to not credit you for the work you did.

Another reason not accepting praise or compliments from your boss or co-workers could be holding you back is because it’s actually an insult to reject someone’s compliment. Essentially, when you dismiss someone’s compliment, you are suggesting that they’re wrong, that they don’t know what they are talking about and that they have poor judgement. Now, if you think unconsciously telling your boss he or she has bad judgement is good for your career, think again. False modesty and excessive humility are not great characteristics when you’re trying to get ahead at work.

Which of these bad habits do you need to work on the most?

See results

Are there other bad work habits that can hold you back not featured here? Leave a comment or suggestion for other bad habits that people should avoid if they want to get ahead at work.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2016 Sally Hayes


Submit a Comment
  • Lipnancy profile image

    Nancy Yager 

    4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

    Never had a problem speaking up at work. I used to ask my boss, "What is it you really do anyway?". He never could answer the question.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, toughnickel.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)