Some habits are fine to maintain in a casual setting. When you're at a bar or having dinner with friends, for example, how often do you think about your habit of saying "um" or how much you're divulging about that argument you had with your boyfriend the other day? Bring these same habits into a professional environment and you may be hurting your credibility. Here are three habits that could compromise your professional image and success at work.
Oversharing Your Personal Life
Our personal lives take a toll on our work lives at some point—we're human, and hey, life can get pretty tough, right? But bringing your personal life into the work arena can hurt you even if you think it’s common or excusable. The reality is that if you're spending time discussing your personal life at work, work is not being done.
As you grow closer to your colleagues, it may feel impossible not to share your ups and downs, especially if it's a two-way street. If you do have this type of relationship with a colleague you can trust, use your coffee or lunch breaks to share limited updates on your personal situation. Peggy Klaus, author and leader of corporate training programs, suggests asking yourself these questions before opening up about your personal life:
1. Who’s listening to me (a boss, a client, a colleague, or a friend)?
2. Why am I sharing this? What’s the point?
3. In this situation, would less be better?
4. Have I left my emotional baggage outside the door?
5. Does what I am sharing benefit my career or the quality of my work relationships?
Avoid writing too-long emails. Nothing is more frustrating than wading through the TL;DR (short for Too Long; Didn't Read), an email that is twice as long as it needs to be. Not only do you risk losing important details in your overall message, but it may turn out to be a conversation that should be had in person. Email shouldn't be a vehicle for avoiding complex or uncomfortable situations or to cover up a mistake. If you can't concentrate on one subject per email, set up a time to speak with that person directly, either by meeting face-to-face or discussing over the phone. The same rule applies to forwarding long chains of email discussions. Take a moment to summarize what has been addressed in the chain so far, highlighting or copying and pasting the most important points if necessary, then including your brief response.
Uptalk and Other Colloquial Tics
"I entered the code? And um, for some reason it's not working? I've, ya know, triple-checked for errors?" We've all heard uptalk at some point: those statements that seem to come off as questions. The term uptalk was first coined in 1993 by James Gorman, professor at the NYU school of journalism, who wrote a hilarious piece for TheNew York Times after noticing his students were ending their statements with characteristically high-rise terminals. Sounding like you’re unsure or that your comment comes off as a question gives you a lack of persuasive communication. Other colloquial tics such as frequently using, "um," "uh," "like," "ya know," or “I think,” can signify unpreparedness, dishonesty, or uncertainty. To catch any of these verbal habits, try recording yourself in conversation with a friend. Chances are that if you're speaking a certain way in a casual environment, you're likely employing the same conversational habits at work. Here are two tips to minimize your verbal tics in more formal settings:
1. Prepare what you are going to say ahead of time. Simply coming up with a list of bullet points that you plan to cover in your conversation will keep the information fresh in your mind, eliminating the need for recalling, and therefore, using fillers to buy you some time.
2. Place all your focus on the conversation at hand. Allowing yourself to be distracted by your surroundings, emotions, or objects in your hands increases the cognitive load that should be dedicated to concentrating on your speaking.
If you do these things all the time and didn't know the costs they could have on workplace credibility, don't look back too much. But, just like a tip from a friend, they can help to keep in mind as you go forward.