21 unprofessional habits that make your employees hate you


Being a good boss is no walk in the park.

There's a lot of pressure to do a good job — indeed, a third of surveyed employees said they'd quit a job because of a bad manager. As they say, people don't quit jobs, they quit bosses.

And you can't rely on your staff to always offer the most constructive criticism, since you're the person with the power to make or break their careers.

But just like everyone else, bosses are human, and even the most skilled managers can exhibit a few bad habits.

Some habits may simply annoy your team, while others may drive them to quit. The key to not letting your bad habits sabotage your team is to be in the know.

Business Insider asked some career experts to weigh in on a few unprofessional habits that could make your employees hate you. Steer clear:

Never showing appreciation for a job well done

A CareerBuilder study found that 50% of workers would be enticed to stay with a company if they received more recognition. At the same time, another study commissioned by David Novak, cofounder and retired Chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands and the founder of O Great One!, found that 82% of employed Americans don't feel that their supervisors recognize them enough for their contributions.

While your employees would almost certainly prefer cash prizes, free company trips, and awards for a job well done, a simple "good job" can go a long way. The key, according to Novak, is to make the recognition personal, timely, and relatively frequent.

"Celebrate first downs, not just touchdowns," Novak writes for HBR. "Publicly recognizing and rewarding small wins keeps everyone motivated over the long haul."

Focusing on the negative

On the flip side of never recognizing the good your people do is having a penchant for only recognizing the negative.

"Don't be the Negative Nelly who says, 'Well, it's great that you just closed that new sale, but we're still $5 million behind budget this year!'" Novak writes.

Forgetting your manners

"Common courtesy, such as saying 'Good morning,' or 'How are you today?,' or 'Thank you,' and taking a genuine interest in your staff, goes a long way in making you more approachable and likable," Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of "Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job,"tells Business Insider.

Being secretive

No one likes to feel like they're being kept at arm's length, and never knowing what's going on behind the scenes can make employees feel like there's something to hide.

"Treating them like a confidante, sharing valuable information, and being more open and honest will definitely help smooth over ruffled feathers and win you some converts in the long haul," Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of "The Humor Advantage," tells Business Insider.

Taking credit for your team's ideas

It's easy for due credit to get lost as an idea is funneled up the pipeline, but this one is a huge no-no.

As Richard A. Moran, president at Menlo College, writes in his book "The Thing About Work," "The best managers don't take credit; they work with the team to share credit."

Treating your people like robots

"It's an old cliché because it's true: Employees don't care how much you know until they know how much you care," Kerr tells Business Insider. "So treat them consistently, day in and day out, in a manner that shows you care about the person behind the job title."

"And don't discount taking the time to carry out small favors or offering up random perks," Kerr says. "Bringing in treats or coffee for everyone or letting the team go home an hour early after a particularly busy stretch will go miles towards establishing better relationships."

Obnoxious email habits

From marking emails 'urgent' when they aren't urgent to shooting off emails at 3 am, poor email form can really rub your employees the wrong way, cause undue stress, and even contribute to their job burnout.

Not practicing what you preach

You arrive and leave as you please, even though you expect your people to arrive at 8 a.m. sharp and stay well past 6 p.m. You take time off to handle personal matters but deny your people the ability to do the same. You encourage your staff to make donations and purchases to support your causes and child's fundraisers, despite your strict 'no solicitation' rule. And you preach about teamwork but never participate.

Rosalinda Oropeza Randall, anetiquette and civility expert and author of "Don't Burp in the Boardroom," tells Business Insider that not following your own rules is a surefire way to ensure you have disgruntled employees.

Being overtly cliquey

"Maybe the new guy who smells like French onion soup is not your favorite person on staff," Vicky Oliver, author of "301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions," tells Business Insider. "That's no reason to flee him every time he asks you for help on an assignment."

Nor should you be spreading gossip about him, Haefner says. Any feedback you have should be helpful and directed to the employee it concerns.

Not making good on promises

Randall says promising things and then either forgetting to follow through or telling employees that it was 'wishful thinking' is "the quickest way to lose your staff's respect."

Commenting on someone's appearance

Even if you see it as a compliment, your employee may view your comments about their appearance as harassing or discriminatory. It's best to stick to valid compliments pertaining to work rather than how you think someone looks.

Being too noisy

Whether you play music loudly while others are trying to work, have conversations the entire office can hear, or start rambling to your staff about your weekend plans as they scramble to meet a deadline, Randall says your employees likely consider you one of the most annoying distractions on earth.

Being noisy, especially in an open office, has a significant effect on your team's focus and productivity, and the noise could hurt business if it carries into an important phone call.

Being distracted during meetings

"There is a reason why texting is illegal while driving: It's impossible to concentrate fully on two things simultaneously," Oliver says.

Texting, surfing the web on your laptop, instant messaging, emailing — doing any of these things during a meeting shows everyone else in the meeting that you're not paying attention.

"They know that while your butt may be planted in the chair, your mind is roaming," Oliver says.

Discussing your divorce (or other personal problems)

Oliver says there are two problems that come from openly discussing your divorce at work: "First, you just don't look like you are actively employed when you spend hours a day dishing about your ex. Second, you're discussing a personal problem at the office when you're supposed to be a maestro at solving problems."

"The place for disclosing confidences is outside the office," Oliver says.

What's more, Randall says seeking advice from your staff places them in a very awkward position and is unprofessional behavior for a boss.

Being unpredictable

When your mood dictates whether you are available to your team or not, it bring everything to a halt, Randall says. Your people need to feel like they can approach you for guidance.

Being unpredictable can actually be worse for your employees' morale than being consistently unfair, according to a new study, published in The Academy of Management journal.

As Business Insider's Shana Lebowitz reports, employees who perceived their manager as fair sometimes and unfair other times were more stressed, more emotionally exhausted, and less satisfied at work than employees who felt they were always treated unfairly.

"The best managers tend to be the most reliable," Lebowitz writes. "Contrary to popular belief, bosses who are emotionally volatile (think Steve Jobs) generally aren't so successful."

Being oblivious

Your employees are the last people you should be whining to about your earnings, lack of bonuses, or sucky parking spot, Randall says.

Being uncommunicative

Your employees aren't mind-readers. While the best workers will try to anticipate your needs, it's not fair to chide them for missing deadlines they didn't even know they had.

The best bosses set clear expectations about what they need from their employees and what success looks like and consistently provide feedback.

Being childish

You're an adult. It's immature to storm out or throw a tantrum whenever you don't like what you hear, Randall says.

Practicing poor hygiene and grooming

At the same time, you want to look like you take your job seriously when you walk into work, and your hygiene and appearance play a role in that.

"Poor hygiene and sloppy clothes scream, 'I don't care!' and are a surefire way to put off those around you," Randall says.

"Burping, passing gas, picking your teeth, adjusting your body parts, and rarely showering are not just unprofessional behaviors for the workplace, but they're pretty darn gross as well," Randall says.

In most fields, casual grooming in public is frowned on, Oliver says. If you need a touch-up or to pick your teeth, she suggests heading to the bathroom.


Controlling your employees' workflow isn't just annoying — it may be killing them.

According to a study from Indiana University's Kelley School of Business, people in highly demanding jobs with little control over their workflow saw a 15.4% increase in the likelihood of death compared with people in less demanding jobs. At the same time, people in high-demand jobs with a high degree of control over their workflow had a 34% decrease in the likelihood of death compared with people in less demanding jobs.

What's more, while going over your employees' workflow with a fine-toothed comb might reveal opportunities for improvement, doing it too often can cause costly disengagement.


"When we're proud of an accomplishment or about something good that happens to us, it's natural to want to share the news with others," Randall says.

But sharing can easily become bragging, and she says there are a few key indicators that this is happening:

• If you go on and on, telling everyone and anyone who walks by.

• If you speak of it in a loud tone so that even the window washer can hear it through the thick glass.

• If you use a tone of superiority.

• If you feel the need to put down others and point out their failures.

• If you fail to say "thank you" when you are congratulated.

• If you start embellishing the story.

"When in doubt, try a little humility" Randall suggests.

RELATED: 19 unprofessional email habits

See Also:

SEE ALSO: 9 things people think are terrible for their careers that actually aren't

DON'T MISS: 21 signs it's time to quit your job