12 Bad Habits That Can Actually Help Your Career

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: January 16, 2012

Somerset Maugham said, "The unfortunate thing about this world is that good habits are so much easier to give up than bad ones."

Being constantly late and spending the majority of your work day playing computer games are bad habits that can put the kibosh on job advancement. But did you know that some bad habits actually have good effects?

The following 12 habits may get a bad rap, but they may also have a positive impact on your career.


Today's work culture expects us to multitask, run from one project to the next, and constantly be on the go. The urge to procrastinate indicates your brain is overtired, overstressed, and needs to slow down. Indulge and take a time out. You'll come back refreshed, and better able to focus on the tasks at hand.

Being Bored

We equate being crazy busy with being important. Allowing yourself to be bored is frowned upon. Yet folks who allow themselves the space and time to be bored have more mind space to be creative, come up with ideas, and solve problems.

Saying "No"

Most of us feel like we have to say "yes" all the time -- yes to our co-workers, yes to our supervisors, yes to our friends.

If you're wondering why you don't have the hours in the day to complete all of the things you've committed to, take stock of what you've said "yes" to.

Learning how to graciously say "no" to things that ultimately don't matter will free up the time you need to focus on the things that will contribute to your success.

Ignoring Your Weaknesses

The typical job review focuses 10 percent on your strengths, and 90 percent on the weaknesses you "need" to improve. Instead of focusing on your weaknesses, ignore them and focus on your strengths.

Serena Williams' obvious strength is her ability to play tennis. How many Grand Slams do you think she would have won if she had spent time focusing on her weaknesses?

Doing Less

Today's work culture tells us we should do more, more, more. Some of us pile so much on our plates there's no way we can do justice to them all. So take some stuff off your plate. Remember the adage, "Jack of all trades, master of none."

Leaving Early

Instead of being the first one to unlock the doors and the last one to lock them, make a point of leaving early to do an activity you enjoy, or to spend time with family or friends.

Creating balance in your life will allow you to recharge your batteries and return to the office refreshed, and that will show in your work.

Giving In to Distractions

Feeling like you should avoid the chitchat at the water cooler? Turning down lunch invitations so you can get more work done?

Don't resist distractions if you're in the mood for them. When your brain is begging to engage in other activities aside from work, give in, within reason. Allowing distractions will give some parts of your brain a rest, while engaging other parts.

Tuning In to Technology

Take a short break and play a computer game, watch a video, check out your favorite news sites, or spend a few minutes social networking.

Just a couple of minutes of alternate activity can get dull brain synapses firing up again.

Stressing Out

It's okay to feel a little bit stressed. As a matter of fact, a small amount of stress, such as the kind of stress you experience when you place yourself in a challenging situation, can keep you alert, energized, and ensure you perform your best.

Just make sure to moderate stress levels; high levels of stress are not good for your health!


Go ahead. Close your eyes and imagine what could be. Not only does daydreaming create a respite from the current grind, it also fosters ideas, creativity, and ultimately growth.

Imagining things is an integral step to accomplishing things.

Getting Angry

Sure, you should always maintain a professional demeanor at work, and that means no yelling, no screaming, and no swearing. But that doesn't mean you can't get angry and blow off steam.

Letting your emotions out can result in feelings of increased control, confidence, and ultimately a positive attitude. Just be careful how you do it.

Vent in a private area where others can't hear you, or write your feelings down on paper.

Being Messy

Obsessively neat people spend time and effort on order that could be better spent on more important tasks.

It probably won't surprise you to learn that moderately messy folks are more creative than their cleaner counterparts, but did you also know they are more efficient?

Of course, complete disarray is never okay. Schedule regular times to tidy up, but let things go in between.

Key to Success?

It's true that our habits have a bearing on our future success. But before you separate habits into "good" and "bad" categories, be sure to take a second look.

Those habits you've been told are bad might just be good for your career!