Women In Business

19 bad signals you might be sending at work

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Whether we know it or not, we all have bad habits and they all come across in different ways – sending bad signals out into the business world. And those bad signals can affect the future of your working relationships and even the future of your career.

In the workplace, it may not be that you chew gum loudly or sip tea like a vacuum that drives people crazy. It’s probably more likely that you are sending bad signals like having a poor work ethic, conversational skills or levels of concentration.

You just have to keep in mind that signals about who you are don’t have to be verbal or involve smoke and a flame retardant blanket. They can be easily sent through your behavior, whether you know you’re doing it or not.Fortunately, there are ways to become aware of these signals, and change them so you leave an excellent impression on everyone you meet.

What time do you arrive and leave each day?

Arriving late for work and leaving too early are bad signals to send your co-workers and boss because it suggests that you do not find your job or work important enough to put in the long hours. It can also suggest that you’re lazy, disorganized and distracted by other things and that you find them more important than your work.

While your current position may not be your dream job, it is your job right now. And although you may not agree about arrival and departure times, your boss does think it is important and does expect you to arrive on time, leave at an appropriate or pre-arranged time and do your job in between.

Who do you hang around with at work?

The people you spend time with at work are a reflection on who you are as a person. Hanging around the wrong people, for example, who mess around at work and don’t show authority figures respect, sends people the signal that you are like this as well.

The same goes for people who do show others respect (no matter who they are) happily obey the rules and appear to enjoy doing their work. Spending time and talking to them similarly displays your own work ethic and how you see other people.

How do you behave in meetings?

The way you behave in meetings can signal to those around you that you find them boring and a waste of time. Not showing up to meetings, unless you have a very good reason for why you didn’t, sends people the signal that you’re not interested in what your co-workers have to say or what changes might be happening in the workplace.

Showing up to them, however, suggests the exact opposite and that you might have something to say or contribute to the meeting. By doing this, you signal that you are interested in what’s happening and what people are saying and doing.

How do you personalise your space?

How you decorate your workspace, whether it’s a big office or a small desk in the corner, reflects how you feel about yourself and your position at the company. Not personalising your workspace can suggest that you lack engagement with the business and you don’t think you’ll be staying in this job for very long.

Conversely though, decorating your workspace with pictures of family, friends and the cat you maybe love too much, tells people that you have settled into your job and that you have found your place within the team and company.

It also sends the signal that you have interests and hobbies outside of your working life, whereas not decorating at all suggest that you only live to work and that’s your only interest. This can also suggest that you have no interest in socializing with your co-workers outside of work.

The key here is not to go overboard. Photos of friends, family and pets are fine. Covering every surface with Hello Kitty merchandise is not … keep the personalization at a level you would expect from a professional career woman.

How do you interact with your colleagues and superiors

The way you treat the people in your personal life sends the people you work with signals about your level of respect for them. Regardless of how much you may dislike your co-workers, at least being able to be civil around and towards them does say a lot about you as person.

Furthermore, the way you treat your boss, or anyone with more authority than you in the workplace, also says a lot about your respect for the chain of command and authority figures. For example, if you frequently badmouth and talk behind the back of a co-worker and/or higher up, people will think that you lack any basic respect for the business.

Whereas, if you be a big enough person to show them respect, even if it’s only because they are your co-workers or boss, regardless of whether or not you like or get along with them, then you will send the signal that you are a fairly pleasant co-worker and employee.

How do you treat the cleaner?

When you meet people who are cleaners, how do you treat them? Do you ignore them? Do you think they are the bottom of the food chain and treat them as such? The way you treat people who are beneath you in terms of job title and/or profession says a lot about your sense of worth and what you think about the other person and their worth.

It also signals that you have a shallowness to you that makes you behave and think in a way that demeans the other person and what they do for a living. And, although it’s a cliché, at the end of the day, we are all equal and trying to make ends meet. No matter what we do for a living or how we got to that job, everyone has a reason for doing it, so you shouldn’t judge others for what they do for a living.

If you do, though, you send a big signal to your co-workers that you think you’re above certain people simply because of what they do for a living and this may make them think that ‘line’ can be expanded to include them.

How do you deal with mistakes?

As obvious as this sounds, everyone makes mistakes. No matter who they are, what they do or where they work, everyone makes an error now and then. But the way you deal with mistakes says a lot about you and how you deal with things.

Not acknowledging that you made a mistake and trying to sweep it under the rug, sends a signal to the people you work with that you’re too proud, and have trouble admitting ouu’ve made a mistake and also have trouble dealing with stress.

On the other hand, admitting you made a mistake is much better for you because it sends your co-workers a signal that you don’t struggle with your pride and that you know how to admit arrors, take it on the chin and learn from it.

Keeping eye contact

Keeping an eye on things doesn’t mean you specifically need to make sure objects or people work the way they should be. It means that when someone is talking, you look them in the eye. This sends them the signal that they have your full attention and that you are listening.

Not holding eye contact, however, sends them the sign that you aren’t really listening to them and that you’re too busy to look away from your work for 30 seconds to update them with how you’re doing with your work or even to chat about your weekend – acknowledging them as a person important to you.

Are you open to conversations?

The way you act during a conversation with someone says a lot about how open you are to the conversation. Sitting or standing up straight when someone is talking to you signals that you are listening to them, find what they are saying important and that you are open to having conversations with them.

The opposite, however, like slouching and crossing your arms when they talk to you, suggests that you don’t care about what they have to say and that you would rather do anything else. The same goes for nodding and just saying yes to things. This shows that you are, at the very least, only half listening to what they are saying and don’t find it important.

Tendency to zone out

Zoning out when someone is talking you, either during work meetings or one-on-one, gives people the signal that you aren’t interested in what they are saying or think it’s not important. It can also tell them that you are more interested in your own thoughts and think they’re more important than what they are saying.

Zoning out, regardless of someone talking to you or not, can also suggest that you’re easily distracted or uninterested in the job you were hired to do. This could lead to you being out of the loop on what’s going on around the office or even losing your job altogether.

Fail to update a project

Failing to update project details, especially as the project is being worked on, is a great sign to others that you are neglectful, forgetful and a bit lazy. It can also show that you don’t consider the work important enough to deal with right away.

When working on a project, whether it is as an individual or as part of a team, updating the details is important because someone may want to see what you’ve done or refer to it at a later date.

Additionally, doing it right away instead of putting it off is a far better sign to send out because it shows consideration for keeping people in the loop and how on top of things you can be.

Don’t respond to emails or calls

Often when people email or call you, they expect a response. Not doing this is a sign to the other person that you are forgetful, neglectful or don’t think they are important or worth your time. It is also a sign that you lack priorities when it comes to following up with people when they have contacted you about something, no matter what it is.

Sending people to other colleagues

Unless it is a clear matter of different work areas, sending clients or even co-workers to other employees sends the signal that you are not interested in helping people resolve their issues or find out information. It also tells them that you are a lazy worker who would rather not speak or interact with anyone if you can avoid it.

Get too personal at work

As the saying goes, sharing is caring. But even at work, there can be a limit. While it’s good to be relaxed at work and feel like you can share things with your co-workers, unless you become very good friends, it’s probably best to draw an invisible line between what’s appropriate to share and what’s not.

Over-sharing can be a sign that you lack personal boundaries when it comes to what you reveal about yourself. Not sharing, however, can be a signal that you are not comfortable discussing yourself or being around other people.

If you’re unsure, though, here’s a tip. Things like getting a dog or doing some home renovations are perfectly fine things to share and are even expected. But things like the gross medical procedure you had done on your backside, not so much. It also might help to remember to think before you speak.

Failure to meet deadlines

Failing to meet deadlines sends a signal to your boss and co-workers that you are disorganized and can’t keep to a schedule. This can also suggest that you do not think your work or meeting a deadline is important and that the needs of the company or team are not important to you.

Browsing the web

Browsing the web at work suggests that you have other, more interesting, things to do with your time than completing work. This sends a signal to your boss and co-workers that you are easily distracted and that you have trouble keeping yourself on track and focused on your work.

Either way, inappropriate use or time spent browsing the web is also a good sign that you don’t want to work that day, if at all.

Not going above and beyond

Most companies would love it if their employees went above and beyond for their customers or clients. Doing this is a good sign that, not only do you want to do your job and complete tasks, you want to do them well.

Not going above and beyond, however, can be a sign that you have low standards for your work and that you don’t care how well it is done. This sends your boss the signal that you only want to do the absolute bare minimum work possible, which also suggests that you are a lazy, uninspired person.

Focusing on stuff other than your job

Make it your number one rule that procrastination is the enemy. Especially in the workplace. When you’re trying to complete your work, wasting time on organizing your desk, washing all the perfectly clean mugs or the vacuuming, you are just avoiding your responsibilities in the workplace.

Although you may find it hard not to get distracted and do things other than your work, you can take steps to improve your concentration like setting yourself small tasks within a certain time frame that go towards the completion of the entire piece you are working on.

Doing this is a good sign to send people because, your boss, for example, will see that you are a good worker and that you are capable of getting your act together.

Not saying thanks

Not saying ‘thank you’ after someone does something for you is a great way to say to people ‘I don’t appreciate you or what you just did for me’.

Saying ‘thank you’ shows them a level of gratitude and that you acknowledge them in some way for helping you complete your work. It also sends people a sign that you are not so proud or above other people that you can’t ask for someone’s help.

About Rowena Nagy

Rowena Nagy is a Journalist at The Business Woman Media. A graduate in Journalism, Media and Communications, she is passionate about in writing, travel journalism, video journalism and Public Relations.

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