Break these bad habits at work

Apr 2024

Are your bad work habits sabotaging your career? Here’s what you can fix today to set yourself up for success at work.


Some people thrive under pressure, but if you’re not prioritising effectively, you’re more likely to fall behind on projects, or deliver sub-par work. One way to tackle this issue is to speak with your manager or other team members to determine which tasks are more pressing than others. It’s not only about managing your to-do list — it’s about learning to seek help and guidance from colleagues when you really need it.

If you’re having trouble staying energised and focused on your work throughout the day, try out different productivity tools. There are lots of time management strategies out there, including the Pomodoro Technique, which encourages working in 25 minute intervals followed by five-minute breaks. Test out a few different ways of working to find what’s best for you.

Poor Preparation and Tardiness

Are you putting in the work ahead of time for important team meetings? Are you making an effort to be on time? If not, you may not get the best reception from your colleagues, and your meetings may not be productive and respectful of everyone’s time.

If you’re struggling with this, devote some time to scheduling your day more carefully. Mark your work calendar as busy for time spent writing notes or jotting down questions prior to a meeting. Set reminders in your email calendar and your phone that will notify you when to leave your desk to make it to another floor or conference room on time. If you’re leading a meeting, make sure you arrive early with enough time to set up the presentation or open up the conference line for those calling in. If you’re running behind schedule, try to send a note letting others know.

Communication Issues

How you communicate in person, in emails or on conference calls can set the tone for your working relationships. Whether it’s a poorly worded email, constant interruptions, or an ill-timed eye roll, we send a message to others — whether we’re aware of it or not.

One way to remain professional is to take your time before responding to someone who may upset you. Take a step back and see if there’s a way to steer the conversation in a helpful, productive direction. And rather than arguing over something through email, schedule some time to meet with colleagues one on one to see if you can work things out in person. Also, learn to be a great listener — you’ll give people the opportunity to express themselves fully, which can also help create a more open and collaborative environment.

Lack of Accountability

It’s important to manage your responsibilities as an employee and be accountable for the work that you contribute. If you’re more focused on what your colleagues are doing, and not on your own responsibilities, you might not be holding up your end of project work. If you’re quick to place blame on others, or respond to feedback from your managers with excuses, you’re not exactly being a team player.

Before commenting on another team member’s performance, ask yourself if there’s anything else you can do to help the team succeed. For example, if a colleague is creating a report based on information and insights you compile, see if meeting them in person to review in more detail will help them complete their side of the work. Taking extra steps personally can help your team go farther together.

Office Gossip

Office news can be a welcome distraction, but there’s a fine line between sharing information and dishing dirt. Discussing happenings in the workplace with colleagues can be helpful and even productive, but spreading false rumours can damage trust and morale. Before speaking up, consider the source of the information and the impact that sharing it will have on others. Does the source lack credibility? Is the information true? Was it shared confidentially? If so, it’s probably best to keep quiet.

Making these daily improvements in the workplace can go a long way in helping you and your colleagues succeed professionally and personally.

While care has been taken in preparing this content, MetLife Insurance Limited (ABN 75 004 274 882, AFSL 238096) (MetLife) does not warrant or represent that the information, opinions or conclusions contained in this information are accurate.  The information provided is general information only and is current as at the time of production. It has been prepared without taking into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs and you should consider whether it is appropriate for you. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and should not be relied upon as such. MetLife recommends that you obtain independent and specific advice from appropriate professionals before implementing a financial strategy, including reading any relevant product disclosure statements and/or terms and conditions. 

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