15 ways you're probably being unintentionally unprofessional


Most people like to think they bring their "A Game" to work every day. But do they really? Recent studies indicate that even though they make a genuine effort, many are prone to "illusory superiority"--the inaccurate belief that they are smarter and more competent than others. In addition to that, almost 50% of employees describe themselves as "not engaged" at work. Plus, half of American workers believe that working hard won't really help you get ahead.

Anyone who feels overworked, underappreciated, and stuck can lose focus or motivation. You might not even notice that your performance is slipping, or you may not stop to reflect on certain irritating, counterproductive behaviors. But others will notice if you let them down. With a new year ahead, it's a good time to evaluate your professionalism. Do any of the behaviors below sound painfully familiar?

1. You left someone hanging at a scheduled meeting.

I get that unexpected things come up: meetings run long, fires need putting out, kids get sick at daycare. But you have a smartphone and e-mail. If you have to miss our meeting, send me a quick note so I don't waste an hour drinking coffee alone.

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2. You never followed up.

You and a new acquaintance had a nice chat, you promised to send along some information, and they passed you a business card before you said good-bye. Now, months later, it is buried at the bottom of your computer bag...along with any hopes you might have had of a business relationship.

3. You had just one more at the company happy hour.

At some workplaces, it's cool to party hard. But do you want to be identified as the star drinker? Even if everyone looks relaxed, someone's always counting, and they notice when you have one (or two or three) more than your coworkers.

4. You promised a favor you didn't really want to deliver.

Now someone is counting on you to deliver, wondering what's the hold up, and why you're acting annoyed with them. You said you were happy to help!

5. You weren't clear on the limits of the deal.

Now the client is confused, you're frustrated, and the strain is affecting the work. If there's a personal relationship there, it's probably twice as tense.

6. You let off a vocabulary stink bomb in church.

Hey, offices are not holy spaces. Plenty of us use salty language on a daily basis. But some occasions are formal (if not sacred), and absently using the F-word in your presentation for the CEO caused a lot of sour expressions.

7. You forgot to mention a few details.

Now the other person has to make decisions without all the facts. When they find out later that there was more to know, you have to choose between being called an idiot or a liar.

8. You left out the consequences.

Would that employee, friend, or child have made that poor choice if you'd mapped out what would happen? Maybe. But now they'll blame you as much as themselves.

9. You refused to use your smartphone as a phone.

Instead, you spent 3 hours texting back and forth on an issue that could have been resolved with 10 minutes of conversation. That's time and attention neither of us can get back. Thanks.

10. You substituted passion for facts.

Most people feel deeply about something, and it is fine to let that emotion come through. But when you present your side of a debate or an argument without using facts to back it up, you only end up convincing others that you're unreasonable.

11. You were continually the butt of your own jokes.

Self-deprecating humor can be effective. And it is safer than making fun of others. But you used it in the wrong moment and context in that meeting, and now the boss doubts your competence.

12. You worked too hard to fill the silence.

You remember how out of place you sometimes felt as a new prospect or employee, so you tried to fill in those awkward silences with playful banter. Nobody could hear themselves think, and you stink of verbal dysentery.

13. You took your coworker's Kool-aid.

That task was assigned to someone else. So you shouldn't have taken over, even if you did do an awesome job.

14. You flaunted your frantic schedule.

You rushed in late, breathless, exclaiming, "I've just been really busy!" Then you looked at the tired eyes of everyone in the room, and realized that humble bragging about your full schedule didn't win any admirers. Their silence seemed to say, "If you are so busy you can't stay on top of communication or honor your commitments, maybe it's time to re-evaluate."

15. You forgot to silence your phone.

So when you started playing Candy Crush at the back of the room, everyone heard it. They also knew your significant other was calling when it played "Let's Get it On."

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