Our habits have the power to make or break us, and even small habits can add up to have dire consequences. A lunch habit of eating fast food could leave you with health problems, a habit of overspending on nights out could leave you struggling to pay your bills on time, and tiny, almost unnoticeable behavioral habits in the workplace could leave you with a damaged reputation.
Before you let these work habits chip away at your reputation any further, eliminate them completely:
1. Complaining. Professional criticism is more than just welcomed in a work environment--it's encouraged. If you have a concern about a new project's deadline or about a new employment policy, don't be afraid to voice your opinion. However, when your criticism crosses a line of negativity and extends into "complaint" territory, you'll immediately leave your coworkers with resentment. Negativity is annoying, and it's also contagious. Whining about circumstances without making any real effort to change them will put the people around you in bad moods, and before long, they'll start to see you as the toxic root of negativity in the office.
2. Gossiping. Gossiping comes in a few different forms, and none of them are good for your reputation. One is the spread or reference of unsubstantiated rumors, usually done behind a person's back. Another is the spread of information that a person would rather be kept confidential. Still another is speaking negatively about someone behind his/her back, usually under a faade of being pleasant when talking to him/her directly. Each of these is damaging regardless of whether the subject of your gossip ever finds out what you said; gossiping makes you appear deceitful, negative, and uncaring toward others. Stick to positive, known subjects and remain respectful of everyone in the office.
3. Taking Credit for Others' Work. This habit can happen in the spur of a moment, and sometimes without you realizing what you're doing. For example, say you're working with a partner on a joint project and you're ready to present to the boss. You end up being the one presenting, and you end up saying a few sentences with "I" instead of "we." That subtle difference could leave your boss with the impression that you did most, or all of the work, leaving your partner without credit for his/her involvement. Don't take the risk; go out of your way to make sure everyone gets their due credit.
4. Being Defensive. Criticism and feedback are important parts of any business, whether you receive it during an annual review or during the course of your day-to-day work. Getting overly defensive in response to this feedback can illustrate you as immature, and might indicate that you aren't willing to admit that you aren't a perfect worker. Your first response to feedback should be to listen patiently and accept the comment, whether or not you completely agree with it. If you get angry, make excuses, or fire back with criticism of your own, you will hurt your reputation.
5. Lying. Deliberate lying is typically a characteristic of manipulative office psychopaths, but even if you don't belong to this group, subtle and seemingly innocent forms of lying can harm your reputation just as much. For example, if you tell your boss you're halfway done with a report in order to inflate your actual progress and he/she finds out that you haven't even started, he/she may never trust you to give an accurate update again. Similarly, your coworkers might learn to distrust you after only a single instance of deceitful or misleading language.
6. Resisting Change. Change is a natural part of any office, and while you don't always have to greet it with agreement or enthusiasm, consistently resisting any change will portray you as a stubborn and self-centered worker. Treat every new change with an open mind, even if it makes you uncomfortable at first. Do express your opinions honestly if you feel that a change will not be effective or productive, but don't stand in the way of the powers that be, and don't go out of your way to fight back against every modification.
7. Publicly Criticizing or Embarrassing. Few workers would go out of their way to publicly criticize or embarrass one of their fellow teammates, but it can happen without deliberate malice behind it. For example, if you're replying all to a group email explaining that the deadline was not met because another worker failed to complete his/her responsibilities, you could greatly embarrass that worker unnecessarily. Instead, you can be discreet in your "reply all" message, and express your concerns to the at-fault worker in private. If the situation escalates, you can take your concerns to a supervisor, but under no circumstances should you pass blame, criticize, or embarrass a worker in a public setting.
Learning to look inward and evaluate yourself honestly is essential to succeed in the professional world. Examining your productivity and performance is a logical first step, but your interpersonal interactions and behavioral habits can have just as profound effect on your reputation in the office. While your popularity and reputation should be secondary considerations to your professional integrity and personal ethics, keep in mind that the people around you will determine how successful you become; they are the ones who will promote you, recommend you, and work hard to help you do well, as long as you stay in their good graces.