Categorized | Advice

Breaking Bad Work Habits

Posted on 23 August 2011

What a day. You went into work excited about your forthcoming promotion and raise. To your surprise, a co-worker received the title you were sure the boss had reserved for you. When you approached your manager about the unexpected disappointment, you were told that your work habits for the past year were not up to company standard, disqualifying you for a promotion.

What Are Work Habits?

Work habits? What the heck does that mean? you wonder. Sure, you’ve come in around 9:20 as opposed to 9 a.m., but they know traffic is murder that time of day. And you’ve been reprimanded once or twice for getting back late from lunch, but everyone’s stood in those mile-long cafeteria lines. And who knew your daughter would catch the flu and get sent home from daycare twice this month? Your reports are always on time. In fact, many times, they’ve been early, allowing you to take it easy at the end of the month.

These are thoughts that go through the minds of many employees who are surprised to find that their work isn’t as outstanding as they thought. Work habits are a very large part of the overall performance of every employee. And even though you aren’t in elementary school anymore, your work habits are still being watched, still being graded, and, like in the story above, can still stop you from being promoted.

Great work habits require more than just completing tasks on time.

But what are good work habits? “It is so much more than completing tasks on time,” according to David Carter, a career consultant in Detroit, Michigan. “It is your workplace behavior, the very way you do things, from the time arrive at work until you leave, that demonstrates your level of professionalism, and your understanding of your employer’s standards of performance.” These things, coupled with your ability to complete tasks correctly and on time, is what increases your value as an employee.

Good Behavior

Here are some of the universal standards of good work habits. How do your current “workplace behaviors” stack up against the checklist below?

  • Attendance and punctuality. Be on time, or early if possible. If arrival times are a problem, try changing your route to work, eating breakfast earlier, or preparing your clothes on the night before. Take only your allotted time for lunch. Try not to take personal days on Mondays, Fridays, or whatever the busiest day is at your job. 
  • Personal obligations. If your children are in school, try to arrange an alternate daycare source (grandparent or trustworthy neighbor) in case they get sick. Be sure you know your bus route to work, in case of car trouble. 
  • Relationships/communication. Getting to know your co-workers creates a pleasant work environment. Make an effort to plan or attend events, especially company-sponsored ones, with your peers. 
  • Teamwork. The person in the story above mentioned the ability to complete assignments early, freeing up leisure time at the end of the month. If this sounds like you, try pitching in to see who needs help getting things done, or what other projects are waiting to be started.

Keeping Track
When you read this list, were you able quickly to assess your behavior, or did you have trouble remembering what you’ve done? How can you find ways to measure your work habits and keep yourself on track? Here are some suggestions:


  • Develop “co-worker habits.” Find a peer in your company to help you monitor your daily habits. Make an arrangement to alert each other to any displays of bad work habits you observe. 
  • Keep a checklist, like the one above, and use it to keep track of days where you observe things in your habits that you don’t wish to repeat, or that could use improving. For example, if lateness has been an issue for you, keep a record of the times you arrive. Try some different morning routines and routes to work, tracking your arrival times for improvement. 
  • Be open and interactive when receiving criticism. Don’t just walk away from a reprimand without input. Let your supervisor know that you are working on solving the problem. 
  • Find a mentor. Ask for a meeting once a month to get their observations and to share any concerns you may have.

Whether or not these suggestions can address your specific work habits issue, they are good ways to develop your level of professionalism. You can set a standard for yourself that your co-workers and employer will appreciate. Before you know it, a new title will be waiting for you. But remember, after changing the way you do things gets you promoted, don’t break your good work habits.

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1 Comments For This Post

  1. Carolyn says:

    Helpful advice. I love my job at a Community College in my hometown, but lateness has always been a problem for me. There are a million excuses: I have difficulty sleeping, I’m young and I just don’t have early rising mastered yet, I always make up the time, etc., but during my recent evaluation, my boss mentioned, for the millionth time, my punctuality. This time she indicated that it has affected my reputation and relationship with my co-workers. They see me as irresponsible, despite the effort and work I put in when I do get there. I realized that it isn’t just my boss I have to be on time for, it’s my co-workers too. It isn’t fair to them.

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