7 Bad Habits That Can Ruin Your Professional Life

stop-bad-habitsEveryone in the world today has habits that hinder some part of their everyday life. From personal relationships to the work place, bad habits are formed every day. In the professional world, however, it is important for employees to understand how their bad habits are affecting those around them. Bad habits in the work place can lead to a bad reputation, being overlooked for promotion or even loss of employment. It is important to be conscience of bad habits and work hard to break them before they negatively impact your career. Of course, as with so much in life, identification of a problem, or in this case a bad habit, is the first step.

Below a list of 7 particularly bad personal habits that can ruin your professional life.

1. Procrastination

We all know someone who puts things off until the last minute, the student who waits until the day before a big exam to study, the friend who is always running late because they habitually wait until the last minute to head out the door, or the last to let you know if they will joining you for dinner. Everyone knows someone who procrastinates. As common as procrastination is, it is not a good trait for the work place. Procrastinators are basically those who do not manage their time wisely and fails to plan accordingly.  Procrastination habits can lead to poor work performance often resulting in failure to meet deadlines or to live up to the expectations of their bosses, coworkers and clients,.  It is important to avoid procrastinating on the job so that your work does not suffer simply because you failed to allot any time for the “what ifs” that can and do inevitably come up.

2. Email Etiquette (or lack there of)

A common issue in the business world is poor email etiquette.  For many people, during their work day they are not at their desks/computers all day long.  Those in this situation typically have a lack of dedicated time to read and reply to messages adequately.  However with the advancement of technology, we now have access to our email virtually any where we go, day or night.  People now have the ability to read and respond to emails in between meetings, before dinner, before bed, at doctor’s appointments, waiting at the airport, from your son’s baseball game, waiting at a stoplight and so on.  But, sadly, because we are using our smartphones and tablets, we forget about the proper etiquette we would typically use in email if we were responding from our desktops.  The result is often hasty responses that are sloppy, were not spell checked, not to mention the all too frequent bad spell check issues that can arise from automatic spell check on smartphones and tablets, have many misspellings, and include “text talk”  such emoticons, LOLs and abbreviations such as”RU” instead of ” are you” and so on.   These emails lack the proper etiquette that should be used when drafting and sending business correspondences.  Hence the ever present “Sent from my Smartphone, please pardon any misspellings.”


3. Language and Communication

How we communicate and the language we use are other issues that can affect the work place. It is very important to be sure that you use appropriate language and verbal and non verbal cues regardless of the situation your find yourself in or with whom you are communicating. You may have a tendency to speak to your co-workers in a very different manner, than you would your customers, the company VPs, and the employees you manage.  With your co workers, you are more likely to be relaxed and feel comfortable sharing details of your family life, children’s lives and so on.  You may also act differently depending upon the mode of communication.   However, regardless of who you are speaking to or how you are communication with them, speaking disrespectfully, being sarcastic, using foul language, and using tones or body language that reflect annoyance, impatience, judgement of others and the like, can get you in trouble. It is very important to be serious and respectful while communication with others so that you can be seen as a professional, keeping in mind this holds true both in person, over the telephone and in the electronic world of websites, blogs and social media.

4. Frequently Being Late

We all get busy and loose track of time once in a while. But like procrastinators, many in the business world wait until the last minute to head to their next destinations, thinking they’ve got plenty of time, inevitably leading to them being notoriously late.  Those you work with or for, expect you to be on time to meetings, conferences, events and of course the start of your work day.  Whether you are a managing partner of a large law firm, an associate, a lobbyist, a receptionist, an inventor, an engineer, a customer service rep, a student intern, or any other of the many levels one can be within a company or firm, frequently being late to things can and do put a strain on your business relationships.  Frequently being late can have a very negative impact on how others perceive you.  And although those higher in “chain of command” are given more leniency on this topic, regardless of what level you are within your company or firm, being frequently late can lead to a domino effect of bad consequences including being labeled as not dependable, irresponsible or untrustworthy, missing deadlines, lost wages, lost clients, and can even lead to you loosing your job all together.

It is very important that you plan your day, making note of all your meetings and appointments, making sure to not book things too close together to get to them.  As you plan your day, as much as possible allow for the “what if” that could potentially delay your arrival.  Use your technology to your advantage.  Set yourself reminders and alarms at times that will allow you plenty of time to get to where you need to go next.  One of my favorite things to do is to periodically put events on my calendar 15 minutes earlier than they really are.  I can never remember which ones I actually put down as early, and as a result frequently find myself getting to appointments early.  If you know you are going to be late, let the others you are to meet with know you will be late as soon as you possibly can.  And if you suddenly realize you actually missed a meeting or appointment, reach out to that person as soon as you realize so as not to keep them waiting any longer.

5. Temperament

Have you heard the quotes, “It is not what you say, it is how you say it” or “It is not how you see your self, it is how others perceive you?”  You probably heard them said or said them to others in the context of a personal, marital or familial relationship.  These statements are particularly true in the professional setting.  How someone interacts with others, both verbally and electronically can make or break his or her career.

As with procrastination and always being late, how you behave regularly will affect the reputation you build with others.  No one wants to be around someone who is constantly angry, sad or negative, those who complain frequently, talk about others behind their backs, or are overly or inappropriately sarcastic.  Think about your last interaction with someone like that.  Chances are if I asked you to describe them to me, you would not tell me about all of the good thing he has done throughout his career.  Rather you will likely focus on the fact that he is always grumpy, angry, sarcastic and so on.

We are all humans, and so much can be going on in our lives outside of the workplace, when you interact with others, be mindful of your emotions at the time, and be sure not to allow your personal life to affect the way you interact with others.  It is also important to remember that not just the words that you speak, but also the non-verbal body language you use can be just as, if not more impactful on how others perceive your temperament.  Whether you are more of a positive or negative person, your temperament will be reflected in everything you say and do professionally.  When you go to a meeting, or talk to your coworkers, or clients, try to always have a friendly, and positive demeanor and keep a smile on your face.


6. Inflexibility

Those who are flexible show your employers, co workers and clients that you are a team player and that they are easy going and approachable.  Customer loyalty is not what is used to be.  If a client feels that you are inflexible, they will likely also perceive you as difficult to work with which could result in their taking their business elsewhere.  Those who remain flexible and open to new tasks and assignments, often find themselves in positive situations, often resulting in new chances to expand your client base and your opportunities to advance within your company.  Today’s work environment is fluid and ever changing.  Those who can easily adapt to the shifts in the workplace are seen as valuable assets to the company even above and beyond the expertise, knowledge and skills you possess.  Those who are inflexible are often seen as not being good team players, not being committed to their jobs and are the ones most frequently passed over when opportunities for advancement arise.

7. Confidentiality

Confidentiality is another issue that can affect your position and reputation.  Those who work in high-tech IT jobs or law firms need to take confidentiality especially seriously.  Loss of confidentiality can cost companies dearly, and for many working within the intellectual property industry, a breach of confidentiality may be an ethics violation so grave that it can result in removal of your licenses or disbarment.

However, it is not just those required by law to keep things confidential who should take confidentiality seriously.  It is important when working for a company or with your Business to Consumer and Business to Business clients that you are someone they feel they can trust.  If you keep things confidential, you will be considered trustworthy, ethical, and most professional.  However, if you breech the confidentiality of the company you work for or of a client or consumer, you can be certain that you will likely no longer work for that company or client.


Some of these behaviors can occur to all of of us from time to time.  Been when they become habitual bad habits, you could damage your career beyond repair.  If you fall into any of these categories, be sure to work on breaking these bad habits otherwise people will see only these bad habits and not your accomplishments, your reputation will suffer, your chances for employment advancement opportunities will surely decrease, and you could loose your clients, your job or even your license.


Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author as of the time of publication and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com.

Join the Discussion

10 comments so far.

  • [Avatar for Renee Quinn]
    Renee Quinn
    June 7, 2016 01:15 pm


    You hit the nail on the head. Knowing who your audience is and the context within which you are communicating can drastically affect the language you use both verbally and electronically. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • [Avatar for Renee Quinn]
    Renee Quinn
    June 7, 2016 01:13 pm

    Benny, You are too funny. I do agree with you on the humor part, but it is key to knowing the audience you are speaking with and knowing how different people with take the humor. Not being an attorney myself, I have a tendency to often interject my own little smiley, = ) But I know with which colleagues I can do that with and with whom to avoid it. Thanks for reading! = )

  • [Avatar for Anon]
    June 7, 2016 05:37 am


    There are certain things obviously worse than the mere bad habits discussed in the article. A speck in my eye? Sure. Now take the log out of your own.

    And regarding that same point three, the context of the forum should not be overlooked. What is appropriate in one forum will not be appropriate in another.

  • [Avatar for Benny]
    June 5, 2016 06:43 am

    is the typo in your post a result of responding from your mobile device? (“there” instead of “their”). You have yet to heed Renee’s advice.
    Regarding point 3 – injecting a little bit of humour in a serious e-mail often has a positive effect, as it shows up the human side of an otherwise stiff-collared professional relationship.

  • [Avatar for Renee Quinn]
    Renee Quinn
    June 4, 2016 08:09 pm

    Steve, I agree! We have to keep these things in mind both professionally and personally. Thanks for the compliment and thanks for reading.

  • [Avatar for Steve]
    June 4, 2016 06:33 pm

    Thanks for another excellent article Renee.

    Important to us all … in both our profession(s) … as well as our personal lives.

    Always great to hear your thoughts, insight, and information.

  • [Avatar for Renee Quinn]
    Renee Quinn
    June 4, 2016 01:19 pm

    Anon, WHAT “other blog?” I thought we were the only one? = )

    Thank you for the compliment on the article and thanks for reading!

  • [Avatar for Renee Quinn]
    Renee Quinn
    June 4, 2016 01:08 pm

    Night writer, Thank you for your comments, although these bad habits can affect our business relationships, they can also affect the personal relationships we have as well. Thanks so much for reading.

  • [Avatar for Anon]
    June 4, 2016 11:37 am

    Night Writer @ 1 – absolutely – which makes the typical attacks on attorneys (less here and more on that “other blog”) all the more asinine when one considers that we act FOR our clients, and often at there express desires.

    (my apologies for the diversion from the aim of this thread) – Great article Renee.

  • [Avatar for Night Writer]
    Night Writer
    June 4, 2016 10:09 am

    Good reminders. We should each read that list every morning. I know I am guilty of breaking some of the rules in the list, which inevitably results in harming my relationship with my clients. It is so easy to forget that right is what the client wants after you inform them of their options.