Toxic work habits which might be making you unhappy

Some of us go to work because we love what we do, but let’s be honest, most of us go to work because we get money in exchange. And since we’re having to sell our time and skills, we might just as well do so without selling our happiness with them. In this article I am covering some of the key habits which could be perceived as toxic and which are likely to be pushing you into work unhappiness or even a burnout space.

Answering emails outside of working hours

Here’s the thing. If it’s an emergency out of hours, let your team or your client call you. Anything that’s not urgent enough to require somebody actively trying to reach you on your outside-of-work communication method means that the email you are looking at outside of your working hours can wait. If you have a preference for answering work emails in your own time which might be outside of the office hours of course nobody will stop you, but the time outside of your working hours is the time you are supposed to be resting and re-charging so that you go into the next day with plenty of energy and good humour. If instead you are burning the midnight oil, you might be doing yourself a disservice not just mentally, but also physically. If it was your work that has put an expectation on you to work outside of office hours, unless you want to do that more than just occassionally, follow up with ‘are you paying for my time outside of my working hours or offering time off in lieu?’.

Eating at your desk

Unless you are incredibly busy that day, take a short break away from your screen. This simple action does two things: it lets you get your head out of whatever task you might be on allowing you to either step away from it completely or change perspective, and it reminds your colleagues that you sometimes will have down-time and they need to respect that. In my personal experience setting simple boundary in a form of lunch break does wonders to your relationship with people who might be the kind to forget that a break is a thing you are entitled to take.

Saying yes to every ask

In some circumstances saying yes to just about anything is going to be seen as a good thing, but in most cases it puts you at a disadvantage. As example, I have been asked multiple times to pick projects up when I was at capacity (i.e. already busy). I have been asked to work overtime when I did not want to and I have been asked to complete tasks which were none of my business to be completing or simply did not make sense to me. Unless you have an explicit reason to say yes to such stretch assignments, such as these leading to a higher level of career or monetary advancement, you might want to stand your ground at ‘no’. Being assertive and being able to be helpful without being taken advantage of are crucial in earning you a level of respect in the workplace and ensuring that you are not constantly overworked.

Losing sight of the big picture

Whatever you are doing, it is really easy to get lost in the detail. Remind yourself frequently why you are doing what you are doing and what goal you are trying to achieve. If you find yourself constantly fulfilling tasks without a goal in mind it’s time to stop and question what you are doing and why. Being in a situation where you are floating and goal-less in a work setting can be detrimental to any intelligent human being’s self-esteem and not only puts your job’s purpose in question, it also puts the company’s business strategy in question. If you ever feel that your work has become somewhat pointless, it’s time to either suggest changes and relook at what your role was initially set up for or consider transforming your work into a more-goal oriented set of tasks.

Listening without hearing and understanding

I used to have a colleague who would listen to what I said, acknowledge my points and then proceed to completely ignore them. Do not be that colleague, no matter how tired or unhappy or disillusioned or in-power you might feel. If you are having a hard time focusing or giving another person space to speak up, you have two options. Either own up to it and reschedule the conversation, or pour more energy into paying attention. And if you are struggling with someone who treats your input in a similar way, it is entirely appropriate to question their behaviour, before it becomes unbearable, especially if it interferes with your work and your work satisfaction.

What are some of the habits you noticed in work that should be avoided?

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