By Bryan Orr

It’s easy to notice horrible work habits — the people you work with have loads of them. Maybe THEY should read this article. While I’m sure you never exhibit any of these, it may be worth reading in case someone asks you for advice or something…

1. Telling Stories About Yourself

Being “relatable” is all the rage these days. First person storytelling is getting more and more popular, and I’ll be the first to admit that I enjoy listening to first person storytelling on podcasts like “The Moth” or “Homemade Stories.” The difference between us and them is they have spent hundreds or even thousands of hours perfecting the craft of first person storytelling and they know how to relate it so that as you listen you are thinking about what it would be like to be yourself in that situation. When I tell personal stories at work and try to relate everything to my own experiences I find I often miss the mark and leave people bored with eyes glazed over.

So it’s OK to tell a personal story now and then, but make sure your communications are designed to communicate with or benefit the other person; not just filling some deep need we have to be heard. Better to ask your team for their stories rather than always sharing your own.

2. Gossiping

There is almost nothing more destructive in the workplace than rampant gossip, and nobody less self aware than the malicious gossip who pretends that their gossip is actually designed to help keep “everyone in loop.” Don’t talk about people in a way that is not explicitly constructive or professional in nature. This goes for everyone, but ESPECIALLY for leaders. Finding out that someone who is in authority over you has been speaking ill of you is a soul crushing experience- break the gossip habit.  

3. Overreacting

The world will not come to an end because the report didn’t get done on time. Your workplace is not a “toxic environment” because Tim from accounting made a sarcastic remark. Your employees don’t “always disrespect you” because you found that a few of them disregarded an email you sent (This one is actually something I said). Stay calm, everything will usually be OK… Unless you keep overreacting and then everyone will probably quit.

4. Using I Before We, When Discussing Vision

“I think we need to expand into the Pacific rim….” This is called the “Royal We” and when you do it your team hears, “We are gonna do all the work and I am gonna get all the credit for the plan.”

Instead, make it a we/you form the very beginning. “You had the great idea of expanding to the Pacific rim, so we are going to pull together and rise to the occasion.” Much better.

5. Saying We Instead of You When Giving Credit

“We did a great job executing the Peterson project” instead of “Bob and his team led the Peterson project and executed it flawlessly.” Adding ourselves as leaders to the “we” circle of congratulations can be so natural that we don’t even notice it. When recognizing an accomplishment be specific to the individual whenever possible.

6. Saying Us or We Instead of I When Taking Blame

A good leader reflects wins onto their team and absorbs blame. To my own shame, I find myself blaming the people who work with me instead of taking responsibility for a mistake in front of a customer. There is something so primal about defending myself from blame that it takes real effort to remember to absorb it.

There are innumerable other bad habits that are worth breaking, so pick an easy one to start with. Break the habit of forgetting to read articles about breaking bad habits… See! You are already on the right track.