7 things you do at the office that make you look less smart, less accomplished, and less impressive than you really are

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leslie knope, parks and recreation, amy poehler Colleen Hayes/NBC Don't sabotage your professional reputation.

  • Even the smartest people can display workplace habits that make them look unprofessional.
  • We listed some of the worst offenses below, based on scientific research and expert opinion.
  • Those offenses include telling inappropriate jokes and being too sheepish to ask for advice.


You're a smart person. And your coworkers should know that.

The problem is, too many smart people fall prey to bad work habits that make everyone in the office think they're ... not so smart.

Below, we rounded up some of the most egregious offenses, according to scientific research and expert opinion. Read on to learn about the behaviors to avoid, lest you sabotage your professional reputation.

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You act like you know it all

You act like you know it all

"Piggybacking with a comment either to outdo, correct, or worse, rephrase the comment and claim it as your original thought, is a sure way to make your coworkers' eyes roll," Rosalinda Oropeza Randall, an etiquette and civility expert and author of "Don't Burp in the Boardroom," told Business Insider's Rachel Gillett.

You use emoji in work emails

You use emoji in work emails

We know: You're only trying to come off as less cold. But try tweaking the actual language in your message instead.

A series of studies published 2017, in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, found that hypothetical employees who included smiling emoticons in professional emails were perceived as less competent than those who sent the same emails without the smiley face.

The researchers learned that the decrease in competence had to do with the fact that participants saw the smiling emoticons as inappropriate in formal contexts.

You tell inappropriate jokes

You tell inappropriate jokes

"Hey, did you hear the one about the —" No. Just don't.

A 2016 paper, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found telling a successful, appropriate joke at work can make you seem more competent. But telling an inappropriate joke can make you seem less competent. So save the cracks about getting drunk for a night out with friends.

You're afraid to ask for advice

You're afraid to ask for advice

2015 research from Harvard Business School suggests that asking for advice can make you seem more competent. And yet that same study found that most people think asking for advice would make them seem less so.

Another common misstep? Asking for your boss' opinion instead of their advice.

As psychologist Robert Cialdini previously told Business Insider, asking for advice creates a partnership between you and your boss and encourages them to be more supportive of your idea. On the other hand, when you ask for their opinion, they take a step back and become more of an objective evaluator.

You curse at work

You curse at work

In a 2012 CareerBuilder survey, more than half of employers said they would think an employee who swore at the office was less intelligent. Even more said they would be less likely to promote someone who swears at the office.

Unfortunately, about half of workers surveyed admitted they swear at work.

You submit projects with grammatical mistakes

You submit projects with grammatical mistakes

Nicole Michel, a linguist who is also a project manager at Microsoft, previously told Business Insider, "If you send a CV to a potential employer and it's full of grammar or spelling mistakes, it's going to show carelessness and lack of attention to detail, and also it shows that you're not really putting emphasis and importance on the task." Same goes for any project you turn in.

Using data from millions of its subscribers, Microsoft rounded up a list of the top 10 grammar mistakes in the English language. Mistakes include incorrect capitalization ("It's cold, But we are going out") and mixing up plural and possessive forms ("My sisters car is old").

You try to impress everyone

You try to impress everyone

In an effort to avoid making a poor impression on management and coworkers, too many people try so hard to look smart that their efforts backfire.

It happens often among new employees, according to 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."

"People make this mistake in their first 100 days on the job: They try to impress their boss and everybody, including their CEO," Taylor previously told Business Insider. "So they might use fancy language— words they don't understand the meaning of. They ask questions for the sake of asking a question, but they haven't done their homework. They try to sometimes seem like they've come up with the answers to everyone's problems or a solution, when if they had done their homework, they would have seen it's already in place."

A better bet? Stay humble until you really know what you're talking about.

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