Career

5 Bad Work Behaviours You Need to Stop Doing Now

Whether you’re new to the workforce or still plugging away at that part-time gig, getting to know the space you’ll be working in is a pretty important part of the job. Is this an eat-at-my-desk kinda place? Can we be on Facebook during office hours? Is the in-office ping-pong table ever actually used? Millions of questions running through your head and you’re probably only focussing on just one: how do I survive this place?

Well, it starts with a bit of effort (and maybe a batch of chocolate fudge brownies). Bringing your A game every day also means trying to quit those toxic habits that can encroach on your peaceful working environment – things like gossiping, isolating yourself and delivering “drive-by criticisms”.

Here’s a bunch you should be looking out for.

#1 Complaining

Look, we get it – sometimes you just need to let your frustrations out. But at what point does a cheeky afternoon bitch fest turn into an eight-hour complain-athon?

Author Linda Swindling knows a thing or two about complainers (she actually wrote an entire book about them) and as she puts it, complaining is becoming increasingly unproductive for the workforce. While we’re all party to the occasional vent here and there, Linda reckons it’s the chronic complainers who aren’t helpful. “Chronic complainers are self-absorbed,” Linda says, “they create a hyper-focus on negative issues”, which in turn is decreasing productivity. Seventy-eight percent of people report a loss of at least three to six hours each week because of complainers, and even though you might think you’re only complaining every once in a while, others might see it as a far more regular occurrence.

But this doesn’t mean you should be compliant (read: a pushover). It’s more about creating a dialogue where saying ‘no’ won’t ruin your career, your friendships or your reputation. Try to think about how you’re phrasing your ideas and thoughts, and try your best to turn them into something useful for everyone.

Important: If you know what’s good for you, never complain about work on social media. You know better than that.

#2 Gossiping

In the same vein, you might want to tone down the gossiping too. Nobody wants to be that guy at work. You know the type; constantly bickering about other colleagues, often too quick to judge on new employees, repeatedly making rude comments about the boss. It can come in different shades, but in the end it’s all gossip.

And we get it, sometimes you just can’t help it. A comment here, a joke there – it’s all harmless, right? Well, what you may think is just a passing comment can often be construed as something completely different to someone else. Being labelled the office gossip isn’t something you should strive towards, so keep in mind there’s a fine line between being inquisitive and being a nosy know-it-all.

And if you have to vent, save it for when you get home.

#3 Isolating yourself

For some, work is just work – you rock up, do your thing and at 5pm you’re out of there. But if your attitude towards work is inflicting on your ability to be social, then there might be a bigger problem here. Studies have shown that not having friends at work is actually pretty detrimental, and not only for your job.

According to psychologist and author Ron Friedman, lonely people have a “harder time relaxing and falling asleep” and over time, “extended bouts of loneliness can lead to memory and learning deficits”. Accordingly, we’re a lot more diligent when we’ve got office buddies. “For one thing, it’s because we can pay less attention to whether or not we’re fitting in and bring our full attention to actually doing our work,” Ron explains. “We’re also more comfortable pointing out when a colleague is going down the wrong path… and we’re more willing to ask for help when we need it.”

OK sure, it sounds so simple: make more friends. But hey, for some of us, that can be a little difficult. Friedman suggests trying a few things:

#1 Share a positive experience;
#2 Find areas of common struggle (but no gossiping!);
#3 Open up about non-work topics; and
#4 Always search for similarities (“You love House of Cards? Me too!”)

Just try to keep things positive and you’ll be swapping stories in the lunchroom in no time.

#4 Being too opinionated

There’s a big difference between being opinionated and offering an opinion. As the old saying goes, “Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.” But we’re often treading a very thin line between opinions being like assholes, or opinions being for assholes.

Let’s look at an example: Alex Padgett works as a web developer for a collaborative tech company in the US. As a self-professed opinionated person, Alex often feels that “it’s a developer’s job to both have opinions and be vocal about them.” As he puts it, “the right opinions can often save time, money and future headaches,” and he’s right. There’s no denying that having an opinion is what drives leadership, collaboration and creation – but it all comes down to the way we’re expressing our opinions that can get us in trouble.

No one wants to feel like a particular opinion is being shoved down his or her throat, so there’s got to be a way to share your opinions, without compromising someone else’s feelings. Alex’s solutions are simple: think as you talk, minimise the use of harsh or absolute words like “hate” or “sucks”, and be mindful of context. Think: “Is it really that important to voice how useless you think your co-worker’s project is?”

Try your hand at disagreeing, rather than arguing. Acknowledge other people’s opinions, pay attention to subtle cues (rolling of eyes, a sarcastic tone) and most importantly, be open to the possibility that you’re wrong.

#5 Criticising without offering solutions

There’s nothing wrong with speaking up about something you disagree with. But when you’re just being a Negative Nancy and not offering a solution to the issue at hand, therein lies the problem.

These so-called “drive-by critics” are about as useful as a fork in a sugar bowl. Worse, these criticisms can often stifle creativity, often leading to an abrupt ending to healthy discussion. Be honest, articulate the basis for your criticism and try to be cooperative. Who knows? It could potentially lead to a solution you’ll all be happy with.

Pro tip: this also applies to bosses as well – if your boss is criticising you or your work but not offering constructive feedback, then that might not be a place you’ll want to stick around much longer.


Rebecca Russo is a freelance writer, editor, community radio dabbler, occasional hiker and celebrity autobiography enthusiast. She has written for online publications including Junkee, AWOL, Fashion Journal and Tone Deaf. Find her online here.