What Not To Do In The Workplace - 7 Unprofessional Things

Last Updated: 

August 22, 2023

We’re always striving to show our best side at work. Anything we can do to impress the boss will help us get that promotion, right?

But what if we were making some grave mistakes? Ones to avoid at all costs because they would undo any good impressions we made with the quality of our work?

This article will identify seven of those big no-no’s and help you stay in the good graces of your employer and coworkers.

Key Takeaways for What Not to do in the Workplace:

  • Bringing Personal Life to Work: Keep personal matters and work separate. Avoid excessive personal calls, discussing personal drama, coming to work inebriated, and soliciting coworkers for non-work-related ventures. Use company resources, including the internet, professionally.
  • Not Being Punctual: Always be on time for work, meetings, and project deadlines. Consistent tardiness can be perceived as a lack of commitment and organisation.
  • Being Disruptive: Avoid distracting others and reducing overall productivity. Respect others by not interrupting, keeping noise levels down, and setting your phone to silent during work hours.
  • Acting with Arrogance: Maintain humility and avoid bragging about accomplishments. Value the input of coworkers and avoid unnecessary criticism.
  • Failing to be a Team Player: Collaborate and work harmoniously with coworkers. Avoid gossip, cliques, and any behavior that makes colleagues uncomfortable.
  • Not Being Sensitive to Others: Be considerate in speech and actions. Avoid offensive language, strong scents, and pushing personal beliefs on others. Be aware of potential harassment issues and address them promptly.
  • Making a Mess: Maintain personal and workspace cleanliness. Avoid being the "office slob" by keeping shared areas tidy and not leaving messes for others.
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1. Bringing Your Personal Life to Work

When at work, it’s best to leave your personal life where it belongs — at home. Just as you wouldn’t want your work life to interfere with your personal life, your employer doesn’t want your home life to take over the office.

When you make excessive personal calls while you are on the clock, you aren’t presenting a sense of efficiency on the job that most employers look for.

It’s understandable if you make a quick, emergency phone call every now and then. However, chatting it up with your pals while on company time is severely frowned upon.

Even if you only make personal phone calls on your break, how are they perceived? Are they quiet and unassuming, or does the entire office know the gist of the conversation? This is just something to consider.

Speaking of the entire office knowing things, do you tell everyone who will listen your weekend drama stories? This certainly isn’t professional and can undermine the respect that not only your coworkers have for you, but your boss as well.

Under no instances should you come to work hungover or worse, still a little buzzed. It's grounds for immediate dismissal if you come to work inebriated, and if you're hungover, you know it will affect your quality of work.

There's nothing wrong with having a side hustle or giving time and effort to a cause you believe in, but don't solicit your coworkers while at work.This includes non-work-related ventures or selling products.

You should even spend your time online wisely. Only do social media and online shopping at home, not on the job.

Be careful what you email and message others while connected to the company WiFi. They aren't private. Send all non-professional emails from home.

It's not that you're a robot with no life, just make sure you know how to keep a professional distance between the two.

Do let your boss know if you're sick, going through a divorce, or a death in the family. They should be aware of this devastating thing so that they can either give you time off or be more lenient in their expectations.

2. Not Being Punctual

Punctuality is a skill but also a habit. Being able to plan your day to be where you should be at the correct time is commendable. If you fail this, however, you can really be racking up some dings on your record.

Repeatedly showing up late for work tells your boss that you are unorganised and you don’t place enough value on your job to show up on time.

Even if you’ve managed to make it to work on time, don’t be late for meetings. When the meeting attendants are waiting on you before they can start, this causes disruption and wastes everyone’s time.

If you have a project with a due date, do your best to complete them on time. If something unexpected pops up that pushes your project completion date back, keep the team in the loop.

3. Being Disruptive

It's one thing to be slacking at work. It's a whole other thing to distract others from their work. When you bring the entire company's productivity your employer won't consider you an asset to the company.

It’s also important to be respectful and listen to others. Don’t interrupt when others are speaking. If you have something to include, wait until they have finished their sentence.

Being noisy can also be a distraction (think things like playing music or audio from your desk without headphones). It's very doubtful that everyone has the same fondness for your music that you have.

When at work, have your cell phone on silent and check it periodically if you expect an important message.

Can you imagine the symphony of buzzes and beeps that would go off all day if everyone in the office kept their phones on alert?

4. Acting With Arrogance

Humility in the office is important to cultivate. Even if you have every reason to feel accomplished, do your best not to brag or toot your own horn. Your coworkers can start to resent you, and this can cause office discontent.

It’s also essential to see the value of your coworkers. Don’t assume you’re always right. Give their thoughts and ideas credit.

Don’t criticise coworkers for their work, either. If there is ann employee that isn’t pulling their weight, that’s for HR to handle.

5. Failing To Be a Team Player

Most companies appreciate it when their employees work together to achieve company goals. This means they expect teamwork.

You can’t be anti-social or refuse to collaborate with your coworkers when they are on your side. In fact, you will accomplish much more together.

On a similar topic, you shouldn’t gossip about your coworkers and resist being a part of a clique. Never be rude, aggressive, or cross any lines that could cause your coworkers to feel uncomfortable.

6. Not Being Sensitive to Others

When at work, consider how your speech or actions will affect others and do your best not to do or say anything that could cause others to take offence.

Never use derogative, expletive, or racist words, even if in jest. All office talk should be PC.

Some people are very sensitive to smells. Avoid wearing overbearing scents or bringing stinky foods to work to spare their noses (and possibly their allergies).

Pushing your beliefs or political opinions on your coworkers is terrible etiquette. Always strive to respect the privacy of others.

In addition to the mentioned behaviors, it's crucial to be aware of and avoid any actions that could be perceived as harassment. If you or someone you know feels they've been a victim of such behavior, consulting with sexual harassment lawyers can provide guidance and support. It's essential to address these issues promptly to maintain a safe and respectful work environment.

7. Making a Mess

No one wants the label of "office slob." Even if you enjoy a more free-flow environment at home, there is a certain amount of cleanliness expected at work.

Make sure you show up to work clean and put together. Bad hygiene or wrinkly clothing can look(and smell) unprofessional.

The same is true of your workspace. Keep your desk neat and tidy, and don’t take up all the space in any shared areas.

Make sure that you aren’t leaving behind a mess for others to clean up either.


If you’ve sheepishly grimaced when reading through this list because you know you’ve been guilty of one or some of these mistakes, don’t give up.

Instead, do your best to reverse these habits and create new ones that will make you stand out as an A+ employee.

This will go a long way to solidifying your position. And become more likely that you'll be the one to pop in the boss's mind when considering who he should give more responsibility (along with more money).

Author Bio:

Caitlin Sinclair is the Property Manager at VICA with five years of property management experience and many more in Customer Service. She shares her passion for her community and looks forward to making VICA the place to call home.

Photo by Frans Van Heerden from Pexels

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