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Leticia Baiamonte
Leticia Baiamonte
  • 3 Minute Read
  • 06th February 2015

Breaking Bad Habits in the Office

We all form habits over the course of our professional lives. They accompany us in that 9 to 5 routine: some make perfect sense, others only serve to drive our co-workers crazy.

Those bad habits we enjoy the most are the hardest to break, according to Dr. Russell Poldrack, neurobiologist at the University of Texas at Austin. He says, “enjoyable behaviours can prompt your brain to release a chemical called dopamine (brain chemical that regulates emotion and pleasure), If you do something over and over, and dopamine is there, that strengthens the habit even more. When you’re not doing those things, dopamine creates the craving to do it again.”

With that in mind, persistence is the key to get rid of certain pleasure-based habits. A good starting point would be not to embrace the saying ‘old habits die hard’, because if any of them are hurting your work performance or your relationships, then they have to go. Below are some of the most common bad office habits, and also some potential ways to get rid of them once and for all.

Being too talkative

It’s great if you’re a people person who likes to socialise. This trait can be a skill - if put to good use -, but it can also be a distraction from your tasks. Remember that the office is primarily a place to get work done, and thus, chit-chat has to be kept to a minimum.

You don’t want to be a distraction for yourself and others, it not only gives you a bad name around the workplace, but it damages your efficiency, which can ultimately hurt your career. So the best thing to do is keep long story-telling for lunches and breaks.


Some people genuinely work better under pressure. The problem with procrastination comes when you know your performance could have been much better if you had put more time into it.

It’s your career, don’t sabotage it with poor time management. The working day can fly by when you procrastinate, but you don’t want that. Resisting the temptation to put something off may be difficult at first, but you’ll be grateful and proud of yourself in the long run.

Take regular five-minute breaks to refresh your mind, and make sure you are hydrated throughout the day. Keeping hydrated is seen as so important the NHS even back a "Nutrition and Hydration Week." That way, you will be more focused and less tempted to procrastinate.

Lack of Respect for Others

You might be guilty of leaving dirty dishes around the kitchen, making unnecessary noises when others need to focus, or never returning the stapler you borrowed. Be careful of your actions, since we all find the same things irritating, so it makes a good starting point to avoid them. Treat others how you would like to be treated.


Typical negative habits include gossiping, whining or complaining. Most of us are guilty of doing these from time to time, but the key is to not let any of them dominate your attitude. Otherwise, you will be a pain to work with. If you’re unhappy with something, the professional way to approach it, is to speak to your manager in private.

Poor grammar & inappropriate language

This is a deadly sin - often committed by students and recent grads -, who bring their personal manner of speech into work.

Professional language isn’t limited to reports and written work, it should be employed in your speech as well, to co-workers and management. Slang, poor grammar, and inappropriate vocabulary make you come across as uneducated or not caring about your work. Know the boundaries between work and social life, and don’t let your guard down when you’re chatting by the water cooler with co-workers.


Regular episodes of lateness can show carelessness, a lack of respect for colleagues who make the effort to arrive on time, and can even land you a warning.

There’s a logical reason why employers often ask people to arrive at least 5 minutes earlier. It takes some time to settle on your desk, and prepare for the tasks ahead. Being early also shows you not only manage time wisely, but you also care about your job. Both compose a great work ethic.

Bad body language habits

Actions do speak louder than words. Slouching, crossing your arms, or avoiding eye contact convey unprofessionalism and at times even rudeness.

Good body language is vital not only during the interview stage, but also every single working day, to nurture a successful career and relationships. To most ordinary human beings, professional body language comes with practice. It may require some effort at first, but with time the suitable body language should come naturally to you.

Source cited: Breaking Bad Habits