A workplace is a tricky place. You may have great intentions, but there are people you work with who can make or break your career. It’s important to know what they’re looking for in order to stand out from the crowd—and avoid toxic workplace habits that could derail those ambitions. Here are five common toxic workplace habits that can harm your career:
1. Thinking you’re the smartest person in the room.
If you’re the smartest person in your office and think that you’re always right, it’s time to stop. It’s important to listen to other people’s ideas and perspectives—even if they don’t agree with yours (and chances are they won’t).
Innovation happens and thrives in an atmosphere of diversity and inclusion. Here I mean diversity of thoughts and ideas, which means no idea is dumb. You just need a plethora of diverse ideas to make the best decision possible.
As a leader, if your people have an incline that you are the smartest in the room, they will shut down and always defer to you. They will feel less smart and stop doing active brainstorming and idea generation.
2. Overcommitting and under-delivering.
Overcommitting is a bad habit that can lead to under-delivering. If you’re overcommitted, it’s easy for your work to suffer as a result. You’ll find yourself spending more time doing less, which means your output will be lower than expectations —and if you don’t deliver on the tasks at hand in a timely manner (or even at all), you create a bad impression about yourself!
Underdelivering is also as bad as over-committing. You can avoid these two “toxic twins” by having current knowledge of your bandwidth at any given time. Know when to say “Yes, I can do this and deliver at a particular time”, or “No, I don’t have the bandwidth now or it will take me more time to deliver”.
“Promise only what you can deliver. Then deliver more than you promise” – Source Unknown
3. Being a jerk to people in general, regardless of whether they work for you.
This is a toxic workplace behavior that leaders and managers need to deal with – being a jerk! Jerks in the workplace disrespect colleagues through their words, and actions and have a generally rude disposition to interacting with people.
The dilemma usually comes for a manager if this individual can always be relied upon to deliver the numbers. When a manager tolerates jerks in the name of performance they create a toxic culture and employees believe “You can be a jerk, as long as you deliver, it’s okay”.
Managers and leaders need to deal with bad attitudes decisively otherwise they will create a toxic workplace habit that can devolve into a toxic culture.
4. Trying to game the system.
Gaming the system according to Wikipedia (also rigging, abusing, cheating, milking, playing, working, or breaking the system, or gaming or bending the rules) can be defined as using the rules and procedures meant to protect a system to, instead, manipulate the system for a desired outcome.
Gaming the system is a bad habit, and not just because it can get you fired. It’s also unethical, which will make you seem untrustworthy and incompetent at your job. And if you want to keep from being seen as untrustworthy or incompetent by your coworkers, there’s no point in gaming the system.
5. Taking credit for things that aren’t actually your work.
Taking credit for things that aren’t actually your work is a toxic workplace habit because it makes you look like a liar. It’s also bad for your reputation, and not good for the person who actually did the work either.
Taking credit for things you didn’t do is unfair to those who helped out, but even if they did make suggestions or came up with ideas of their own—and even if they were just as responsible as you are—you should still acknowledge them fully and publicly.
These bad working habits can end up working against you and are best avoided or at least modified so that they don’t have negative consequences.
In order to keep your workplace healthy, you need to avoid these bad working habits. If you’re facing a toxic environment at work, it can be hard to recognize the signs in yourself and others around you. But there are ways that we can all work together as a team and make changes so that everyone feels respected and valued by their coworkers.
If you’re looking to improve your workplace culture and make it a better place for everyone, then taking some time to think about how you might be contributing to the toxic atmosphere will go a long way toward making a positive impact. The good news is that there are ways out of these bad working habits, but first, you have to recognize them for what they are—and most importantly, stop doing them!