Career & Finance

7 Habits That Are Making You Look Unprofessional

Who you are on the weekend isn’t necessarily who you are at work — and that’s perfectly normal. When it comes to your job, the world of work is completely different: your attendance isn’t optional, your coworkers don’t have to be your friends, and your afternoon naps aren’t exactly acceptable.

It’s a well-known fact that your career will challenge you as an individual and strengthen you as a professional. Regardless of what your occupation may be, the ability to make a positive impression with the people you work with is an important aspect of your success. While reaching this goal tends to be a learning process, here are seven habits that are not only making you struggle — but also making you look unprofessional.

1. Being on your phone

Taking a personal call is understandable, but taking the entire morning to check your text messages is not. While you have other responsibilities outside of your work life, the general rule is that the situations that don’t pertain to your job should typically be handled when you’re not at it. Unless the issue is a family emergency, the tweet you were tagged in and the video your friend sent you will still be there — regardless of when you check them. Although your wish to stay connected online is nice, it’s not a necessity (at work) and shouldn’t be treated as one.


  • Put your phone in a place that isn’t conveniently within reach
  • Schedule breaks in your day and allow yourself to use your phone during those controlled times
  • Turn your phone on silent to avoid the temptation of checking it

2. Gossiping with coworkers

There’s a time and place to talk about your eventful weekend — and it’s not in the break room as your manager walks by. It’s fair to assume you want a friendly work environment, but being on good terms with your coworkers doesn’t correlate to being their new best friend. Although it’s efficient to converse with the people you work with, it’s even more admirable when you’re able to filter what you share and who you share it with.


  • Avoid discussing other coworkers in conversations
  • Be mindful of the privacy of your coworkers — and don’t push them for more details of their lives
  • Tailor the manner you speak to your coworkers based on your relationship with them

3. Working in an untidy space

You can tell a lot about a person by the way they present themselves — and their work space. While you’ve probably noticed the appearance of your coworkers’ desks, your mistake may be assuming that they aren’t making assumptions based on yours. Whether your space is submerged under granola bar wrappers or decorated with photos of your puppy, those who walk by will look — and it’s up to you to decide on what they see.


  • Take 5-10 minutes at the end of each day to clean up your desk
  • Have a clear understanding of your work culture and what would be appropriate to hang up/place in your area
  • Invest in different storage ideas to keep track of your pens, folders, post-it notes, etc.

4. Not following the dress code

Whereas you could be in a creative field that allows you to dye your hair a bright color, a corporate job would most likely frown upon this decision. Even though dress code varies for different fields of work, it’s always a smart idea to be mindful of what rules pertain to you (in order to avoid breaking them). By being conscious of your attire, you’ll prevent any awkward confrontations and be able to focus on the work in front of you — instead of the potentially inappropriate outfit on you.


  • Choose your outfit the night before to stop any overlook from happening
  • If you’re truly unsure of a piece of wardrobe, the safest option would be to not wear it
  • Have a layer of clothing available (sweater, scarf, cardigan, etc.) in your car or at your desk as a backup option

5. Showing up late

Being late to any gathering is unfortunate, but arriving late to any work-related event is unacceptable. From daily attendance to weekly meetings, running through the door 20 minutes after the scheduled time is a habit that shouldn’t be practiced. We know — sometimes life happens and tardiness is what occurs because of it, but preparing for anything beforehand is a great way to prevent the setbacks that may happen when the moment comes.


  • Know your habits and figure out how to work around them (for example: if you always oversleep, set your alarm in a separate room to force you to get out of bed)
  • Do everything you can the night before — to buy you more time the day of
  • Create a morning routine

6. Having poor email etiquette

The convenience of email is that information can be sent in seconds, but the controversy is how the content and tone can be distorted. Not to be mistaken as texts, emails should be taken seriously. While emojis are sweet, they don’t have a place in your work emails — and neither do typos, filler words, casual punctuation, large blocks of text, or the fact that it took you over two days to respond to an email. Overall, the use of email is meant to help you, and being knowledgeable on appropriate email etiquette will stop it from hindering you.


  • Dedicate a set time in your day to focus on your email
  • Research suggested manners in regards to professional emails – and follow them
  • Draft your email and then double check it before pressing send

7. Making constant excuses

While work may be challenging, your reaction to the difficult time will be your key to success — or the blame for why you can’t seem to overcome the bump in the road. Maybe you missed a deadline (because you weren’t specifically told when it was) or forgot an important fact in your presentation (because your partner said she would mention it instead). Nonetheless, the issue with making excuses is that it increases your stress and diminishes your reliability — while also indicating that you’re either unable to accept criticism or aren’t open enough to acknowledge it. As humans, mistakes arise, and sometimes the best way to handle them is to accept why they happened and make changes to stop them in the future.


  • Put together a to do list and place your most important (or dreaded) task at the top
  • Be honest with yourself — don’t allow the excuse you make to be the reason for why it occurred
  • Recognize that there isn’t weakness in needing to ask questions or seeking guidance

Which of these habits do you struggle with most? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!