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12 Work Habits That Make You Look Unprofessional

Even if you think you're a superstar employee, you're not if you're guilty of these common things.

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Using emojis

Resist the urge to send your boss that thumbs up or happy face emoji (even if he or she sends you them). It’s easy for communication to get misconstrued via text and you certainly don’t want your boss to take your emoji the wrong way. While everyone has a different relationship with their coworkers and each office environment is different, it’s best to avoid this work habit until you’re better acquainted with your work atmosphere. “Using emoticons in e-mail makes people subconsciously think you’re incompetent,” warns Penelope Trunk, career coach.

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Making excuses

If you make a mistake, just own up to it. No one likes that one person that’s always slacking, yet somehow always coming up with obscene reasons to why they didn’t or couldn’t do something. No one is perfect and mistakes are bound to happen, so when you do something wrong, just address it and move on.

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Having an empty desk

While it’s definitely safest to keep your professional and personal lives separate, you don’t need to hide your personal life entirely. In fact, according to Trunk, having a completely empty desk without any personal mementos, like notepads, pictures, pens, etc. is a bad work habit and actually makes it look like you don’t care about your job. You probably put in long hours and work, so why not make it a space that you enjoy. It’s OK, go ahead and hang up that picture of your adorable dog or baby. In fact, find out why a messy desk might make you a genius.

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dressing sloppyvladibulgakov/shutterstock

Dressing sloppy

It seems as though office dress code has declined tremendously over the years. In workplaces where you once saw business suits, you now see jeans and t-shirts. Most places today are moving towards a more “business casual” dress code, which is both good and bad. Good because no one really likes wearing a pantsuit and necktie, but bad because how you dress can now lead to someone thinking you’re unprofessional. If you’re ever in doubt, just make you avoid the 16 things you should never wear to work.

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workAntonio Guillem/shutterstock

Leaving work early often

Leaving work early once or twice isn’t a big deal, but it starts to negatively impact your career when it becomes a weekly work habit. Obviously there are exceptions, for instance, maybe every Friday you have to leave 20 minutes early to pick your child from daycare (in this case it’s best to discuss this prior with your superiors), but for the most part, leaving early often reflects poorly on you. “Leaving work early makes you look like you don’t care about work even if you come in earlier than other people or work late at night,” says Trunk. Use these techniques to make extra income from home. 

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No one likes a gossip and talking poorly about another person really only makes yourself look bad, especially while at work. You never know who is listening in the break room and even though Sally is your work friend, you never know who she’s going to pass on your juicy gossip to. You don’t want to be known as your work’s gossip, so keep it to yourself and remember what your mom told you: if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Hint: Doing these 13 things will make you a better co-worker.

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Answering e-mails slowly

It’s frustrating having to constantly check e-mails outside of business hours, but doing so will help you grow in your career. You want to be know as someone who is dependable and responsive and one way you can do this is by answering e-mails quickly, yes, even on weekends. “Answering e-mails slowly looks like you’re overwhelmed,” says Trunk. While you don’t need to be glued to your work device, in this day and age where e-mail and phone is the main form of communication, quick responses are key. Crafting the perfect e-mail takes a certain fines, and these 6 toxic phrases should be avoided at all costs.

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Taking personal calls

Emergency calls are one thing, but constantly chatting with your BFF via phone every morning is a bad work habit and should be avoided in the workplace. This goes for texting and checking social media, too. Really, you should refrain from taking personal calls, texting, and scrolling through your phone while on the clock. There’s nothing worse than being mid-convo gossiping about your new friend’s boyfriend only to have your boss walk in. Personal calls should be saved for personal time.

9 / 12

Not doing your hair and makeup

OK, OK, this sounds bad, but it’s the truth. You need to look presentable at work, which usually involves putting some sort of effort into your hair and makeup. Now, you don’t need to (and shouldn’t) go full on red lip and smokey eye with a blowout, but doing a little makeup and hair will go a long way. “Women who don’t wear makeup to work make people think they are less motivated (not fair, I know, but it’s reality),” says Trunk. Numerous researchers have studied the topic of beauty and all conclude that attractive people are more successful, so consider waking up a tad earlier and spending more time getting ready.

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Running late

There will come a time when you’re late to work. Maybe your car breaks down, maybe your kid pukes last minute as you’re running out the door, or maybe the public transportation in your city is undependable. Being late once or twice is inevitable and even understandable; it happens to the most punctual of people. But being chronically late is where it becomes an issue. People probably won’t notice if you’re late one day, but strolling into the office every day 15 minutes will get you all the wrong attention. We all know someone that’s always late. Always running ten minutes late? Try these time-management tips from successful people.

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Eating at your desk loudly

Not only is this work habit disgusting, but it’s flat out rude. Other people are trying to get their work done and the last thing they want to hear is the chomping of your chips. If you can’t chew with your mouth closed, then don’t eat at your desk. While we’re on the topic, you shouldn’t eat stinky food either, like last night’s leftover fish or fragrant curry. Besides, lunchtime presents the perfect opportunity to take a quick break from work, so eating at your desk should be a last resort.

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Taking all the credit

If you complete an assignment on your own, then yes, you deserve all the credit, but taking credit for group projects is a poor work habit that only makes you look bad. You’ll likely get noticed if you’re constantly saying “I” when you should be saying “we.” No one likes a ball hog and you certainly don’t want to be known as the guy who’s constantly bragging. If you complete an amazing project with the help of your co-workers, it’s best to acknowledge everyone that contributed, even if you did more of the workload. After all, team works makes the dream work, people. Now that you know which habits to stop, find out how to finally get that promotion.