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

19 unprofessional email habits that make everyone hate you
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19 unprofessional email habits that make everyone hate you

Sending 'urgent' emails that aren't urgent

"Like the boy who cried wolf, if you abuse the urgent marker, it won't be long until no one will pay any attention to it," Rosemary Haefner, chief human-resources officer for CareerBuilder, tells Business Insider.

And when you finally do send a truly urgent email, no one will pay attention, she says.

(Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury via Getty Images)

Being too casual

While the tone of your message should reflect your relationship with the recipient, Haefner says, too much informality will make you come across as unprofessional.

She advises being judicious in your use of exclamation points, emoticons, colored text, fancy fonts, and SMS shorthand.

What's more, not everyone can quickly decode acronyms, Rosalinda Oropeza Randall, an etiquette and civility expert and the author of "Don't Burp in the Boardroom," tells Business Insider.

"Be especially mindful if you work with people from different generations, have language barriers, or prefer a more traditional tone," she says.

(tzahiV via Getty Images)

Being too stiff

At the same time, you don't want to come off as a robot.

"It's OK to add a bit of enthusiasm or personality to your emails," Vicky Oliver, author of "301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions" and "301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions," tells Business Insider.

She laments that sometimes she receives "one-line emails that are so transactional they sound like an automaton is responding."

(Just One Film via Getty Images)

Replying all

"Email is not a party in the break room, it's a communication tool," Haefner says. "If you're responding to an email sent out to a group, be sure you are only hitting 'reply all' if your reply is truly necessary for everyone to receive."

(John Lund via Getty Images)

Cc'ing without approval

At the very least, sharing information that's not yours to share is annoying. It could also be a liability.

Whether you're cc'ing a client on an email where your boss said something about them or including a coworker on an email chain where another coworker shares personal information, "No one likes to have someone else decide to cc someone without being asked first," Randall says.

The best rule of thumb is to never assume it's OK to share an email with someone new to the conversation.

(Medioimages/Photodisc via Getty Images)


"I am not a big believer in blind copying people on emails," Oliver says. "When I have been bcc'd, the first thing I think is, 'If she is bcc'ing me on this, who else has she bcc'd on other emails?'"

Bcc'ing conveys distrust and secrecy, she says.

"If you need to forward an email to someone who technically should not be on the chain, cut and paste the email into a separate email for that person," Oliver suggests.

(PhotoAlto/Sigrid Olsson via Getty Images)

Using a vague subject line

"It's me," "Hey," or "FYI" give the email recipient no indication of what you're emailing them about, and they're less likely to open your email as a result.

"None of these prompt immediate attention," Randall says. "A workplace email, is best when it's clear and concise. Giving the recipient a clue can encourage them to read and reply quicker."  

(Richard Goerg via Getty Images)

Not including a subject line at all

As Amanda Augstine, a career expert for TopResume, previously told Business Insider, this can be irritating to the recipient, who is forced to open the email to figure out what it's about.

(Lite Productions via Getty Images)

Starting a sentence in the subject line that you finish in the email's body

If you begin a thought or question that ends in the email, then the reader is once again forced to open the email, which is annoying, Augustine previously told Business Insider. The goal is to be clear and respectful of the recipient's time.

(Daryl Solomon via Getty Images)

A ridiculous email address

If you're sending out an email in a professional capacity, whether it's to a client, colleague, or potential employer, avoid sending it from an unprofessional email account, Randall says.

Anything cutesy, sexy, vulgar, or nonsensical will set a negative tone from the get-go. If you insist on keeping "S3xyCan1@netscape.net," at the very least create a separate email account strictly for professional emails, Randall suggests.

(Robert Daly via Getty Images)

Putting words in ALL CAPS

ARE YOU YELLING?!?! Because that's what using all caps looks like.

Unless you want to give your email recipient a heart attack, turn your CAPS LOCK off. And while you're at it, ease off on all the exclamation points.

(OZ_Media via Getty Images)

Sending too many personal emails

Jokes, touching stories, and motivational quotes sent on occasion could cheer up someone's day, Randall says, but they can quickly become tiresome.

"No matter how well-meaning you are, bombarding your coworkers' email on a daily basis can prompt them to auto-delete," she says.

(Compassionate Eye Foundation/Hiep Vu via Getty Images)

Being snippy

It can be tempting to show a little ire in your follow-up email, especially when you've been waiting on something that hasn't been delivered. Don't, advises Oliver.

"People always remember the mean email," Oliver says, "which is why you must not send one."

(Jupiterimages via Getty Images)

Instead, she advises writing the email you want to send, saving it in your drafts folder for 48 hours, and then revising it to take out the snippiness.

"It will help you accomplish your goal faster because you will come off as patient and professional as opposed to snarky," she says.

Being curt

If you know the person really well, you can sometimes dispense with the niceties, Oliver says.

"But if the person to whom you're writing is a business colleague or a client, err on the side of politeness. Use words like 'please,' 'thank you,' and sign off with a word like, 'Best,'" she says.

(Stephan Hoeck via Getty Images)

Numerous typos

"Sent from my iPhone," is no excuse for sloppy emails.

While Oliver says one typo here and there is becoming more acceptable because everyone is sending emails from their phones, more than one per email is unprofessional.

If the email is important enough to send out while you're on the run, it's important enough to look over before you send it out.

(Hemera Technologies via Getty Images)

Sending emails at 3 a.m.

Oliver says that she's done it occasionally herself "because sometimes you wake up very early and you're feeling productive."

But she cautions that even in this 24/7 world, "most people look at the time stamp and hold it against you if it shows some crazy hour in the morning. At best, they think you're a workaholic who doesn't have a life. At worst, they think you're obsessive."

If inspiration strikes you at odd hours of the night, Oliver suggests writing the email, saving it in your drafts folder, and sending it during working hours.

(Images By Tang Ming Tung via Getty Images)

Annoying punctuation

If you choose to use an exclamation point, use only one to convey excitement, says Barbara Pachter, author of "The Essentials of Business Etiquette."

"People sometimes get carried away and put a number of exclamation points at the end of their sentences. The result can appear too emotional or immature," she writes in her book. "Exclamation points should be used sparingly in writing."

(Zoonar RF via Getty Images)

Unprofessional fonts

Purple Comic Sans has a time and a place — maybe? — but for business correspondence keep your fonts, colors, and sizes classic.

The cardinal rule: Your emails should be easy for other people to read.

"Generally, it is best to use 10- or 12-point type and an easy-to-read font such as Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman," Pachter advises.

As for color, black is the safest choice.

(Charles Falco via Getty Images)

Going too long

Most people spend seconds — not minutes or hours — reading an email, and a lot of people only skim them, so write your email accordingly.

Large blocks of text are hard to read, so it's better to break emails into short paragraphs, Haefner says. Bullet points or numbered lists are even easier to digest.

(Tim Shaffer / Reuters)

You can also use bold or italics to highlight important parts of your message, but you should do so sparingly.


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