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The Horror!

Frightful Habits That Can Harm Your Reputation

What if you're the scary one?

By Stacey Hanke

Have you ever been so frustrated by a colleague’s bad habits that the mere thought of communicating with them scares you? Do you avoid their calls and try to disappear when you see a rude co-worker come your way?

Imagine: What if you are the one with a reputation for frightful habits?

Mistakes That Cost You Influence

While we all want to believe we are perceived as exceptionally professional, most people don’t realize the kinds of mistakes that hurt their reputation and cost them influence. Remember that other people don’t see who we are inside — or who we think we are. Instead, they form impressions of us based on what they observe day to day.

Here are a few common mistakes that can hurt your credibility and diminish your ability to influence others — and a few simple steps to correct course.

1. Meeting Monster

We are all overwhelmed with meeting madness — so much so that some people neglect basic meeting etiquette. A few don’ts:

  • Don’t be late. Strive to be on time. That said, no matter how much we want to avoid it, situations occasionally arise that cause us to run late. If this happens to you, enter the meeting in progress with grace. Quietly open the door and take your seat. Quickly review the materials and catch up on your own without interjecting or asking others to catch you up.
  • Don’t interrupt. Once a presentation is in progress, acknowledge the rules established by the presenter. If there is a Q&A session at the end, make notes of what you’d like to ask and save your queries until then. If someone is sharing an idea, don’t interrupt with yours. Allow whoever is speaking to finish their thoughts before interjecting with yours.
  • Don’t veer off track. We’ve all attended a meeting with a co-worker who has a penchant for derailing conversations. It’s irritating and confusing. Be the one who asks questions and suggests ideas in line with the topic of discussion. Stay on track and save other items for after the meeting ends.

2.  Terrifying Texts

Text messaging has become a way of life among professionals. Whether you’re sending a quick message to co-workers, your boss or a client, there are guidelines for this digital dialogue.

  • Keep it simple. Text messages should be short — no more than two sentences. If the need to text requires more than three back-and-forth exchanges, pick up the phone and talk instead. This will reduce the risk of miscommunication.
  • Pay attention. Sending text messages during a conversation or meeting is rude and trying to hide it doesn’t fool anyone. Everyone knows if you’re trying to text under the table instead of paying attention. People get offended and feel unimportant if you’re texting as they’re talking. Don’t do it.

3. Aimlessly Floating

We have become overly absorbed with technology and absent-minded to others in our space. Some advice on smartphones:

  • Don’t walk and talk. Unless you have extra eyes on the top of your head, put your phone down and pay attention to where you’re going. We’ve all seen the hilarious videos of people walking into things because they were paying more attention to their device than what was in their path. Imagine how your co-workers feel in their attempts to avoid being your next hallway victim. You may think you are being efficient, but you’re going to make a mistake.
  • Greet them as you pass. If you must answer a call or respond to a text, either step aside so you don’t block others or wait until you return to your desk. In fact, make a point of acknowledging peers you pass in the hallway. It’s easier to build a positive influence by saying “good morning” rather than knocking someone to the floor.

4. Eyes Are Everywhere

Whether it is a security camera overhead or a person sitting in a car across from yours, someone is almost always watching.

  • Know your surroundings. The car is not the place to do your makeup, dance or change clothes. Your office is not the place to pick your teeth or your nose. If you must attend to grooming matters, do so before you arrive. If that’s not possible, head to the nearest restroom and get situated.
  • You’re on. Be aware of what you look like walking into the office or conferences (where every attendee/blogger has a camera). Maintain strong posture and stride. And when walking into work, limit the number of bags you carry. You’re not moving; you’re going to work.

5. After-hours Fright

Few things generate as much dread as seeing the boss’s name on your phone long after the workday’s done. An “always-on” leader generates frustration and animosity. If you’re the boss:

  • Avoid after hours. Nothing scares people more than an after-hours work-related text message. If there is something on your mind you wish to share,  write it down and save it for the next day. Allow people time to decompress without fear or worry of unexpected messages.
  • Terrifying timing. If there is something urgent to share, start by apologizing. Assure the recipient you would not have called or messaged under a less-pressing circumstance. Acknowledge you respect their time and will do your best to limit the interaction.

Bury Those Bad Habits

You don’t need to be scary to lead. When you are mindful in your communication methods and manners and respectful of others, you increase your credibility and ability to influence others.

Categories: People Skills, Personal Branding, Professionalism, You At Work
Originally published October 31, 2018
Last updated June 1, 2020
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Stacey Hanke

Stacey Hanke, a communication expert, is the founder Stacey Hanke Inc. She is the author of “Influence Redefined: Be the Leader You Were Meant to Be, Monday to Monday” and “Yes You Can! Everything You Need From A to Z to Influence Others to Take Action.” Stacey and her team have delivered thousands of presentations and workshops for leaders of Fortune 500 companies including Coca-Cola, Nationwide, FedEx, Kohl’s and AbbVie.

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