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4 Ways You’re Secretly Sabotaging Yourself at Work

Whether you’re starting a new job or have been at the same place for years, everyone develops a work routine. The way you interact with your coworkers, assess tasks, complete assignments and present yourself in the office showcases your technique, personality and effort. However, you may not realize that your seemingly innocent actions in the workplace will precede a negative performance review, removal from a big project or rejection from a promotion. Look out for these professional pitfalls that may have snuck into your office life.

1. Refusing to delegate

Type A collegiettes often believe that the best way to ensure high quality work is to do it all yourself. However, you may not realize that you’re putting way too much pressure on yourself, as well as closing yourself off from the valuable inputs of your coworkers.

Rachna Shah, a freshman at Dartmouth College, knows what it’s like to want to take up all the responsibility.  “Sometimes, I’ll try to lead an entire project by myself,” she says. “I’ll be impatient, caught up in the excitement of an idea. This quickly leads to fatigue, confusion and disillusionment, and would have been easily avoidable if I had sought help out earlier.”

Even if you’re supposed to go solo on a project, ask a few people you trust around the office to weigh in. “Confidence is good, don’t get me wrong, but realize that you don’t know everything, no one does,” says Tamara Peters, associate director for career development at Rutgers University. “Always try your best to listen, and be open to others’ ideas and feedback.” Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone for some help—collaboration usually makes your workload easier and your final product better!

Related: 8 Tips for Calming Your Nerves at a New Job

2. Maxing out on overtime

In theory, overtime can seem great—you get bonus pay and bonus experience. However, you need to remember that there is a legal limit on hours per week for a reason. Even as a young, hardworking girl-boss, you need to give your mental and physical health some good TLC.

Emily Schmidt, a freshman at Stanford University and fast-food employee, says that pushing the limit on her hours has pushed the limit on her performance. “Because I’m exhausted every day, I’m not giving my full attention to customers and end up being grouchy most of my shift,” she says. “Sometimes I think the extra money just isn’t worth the mental strain.”

Shut off your computer and clock out when your workday is done. With a better attitude and a higher quality of work, you (and your boss!) will thank yourself later.

3. Behaving unprofessionally

Having work friends makes your nine-to-five a lot more entertaining, but the term NSFW still applies to anything you say or do with them. Crying about your breakup to your coworker in the office or getting too sloppy at happy hour with your project team may seem like opportunities for bonding, but they really just make you look like your life is not together.

Peters believes that if you’ve known your coworkers for less than six months, you should definitely steer clear of intimate topics. “As a rule of thumb, keep it primarily positive and work related, no gossip,” she says. “A few personal comments about what you did over the weekend, or the latest episode of a Netflix series are fine, to show you’re human, but elaborating too much on a topic at this point is dangerous territory.”

While you do always want to bring your unique skill set to the job, work events with alcohol are not the time to show off your flawless four-second shotgun. Tom Dezell, career adviser and author of Networking for the Novice, Nervous or Naïve Job Seeker, believes that you should limit or avoid drinking in these situations. “I remember the story of a colleague years ago who would always order a drink he couldn’t stand at such events so that he’d always have one in hand, but never drink it,” he says. 

Connect with your office BFF over whatever you’d like, but just remember, this is a person that you want to always impress. They could end up being your boss one day, and you’ll want them to hold you to a high standard—not hold your hair back.

Related: How To Make Up For A Bad First Impression At Work

4. Thinking deadlines don’t really matter

Just because you aren’t receiving grades—and you may not get a tangible repercussion—doesn’t mean assignments shouldn’t be completed on time. Every task you complete, regardless of your seniority within the company, is intrinsic to the structure of some larger task. Turning your work in late, even if its just a few hours, could mean that a higher-level executive has to pull an all-nighter to finish preparing a presentation for an important client meeting.

Your boss may be your best friend or the most laid-back person you know, but at the end of the day, if a deadline was set, it was set for a reason. As long as you’re on time, you won’t be the reason something goes wrong.

Don’t sweat the small stuff—but make sure the small stuff doesn’t escalate into bigger issues! Fix these sneaky bad work habits and you should be smooth sailing in the office in no time.

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Elana Golub

Northwestern '18