In an average work day, your attention is likely pulled in many directions—your inbox, preparing for that 2 p.m. presentation, Slack, filling in for your sick colleague, answering another question from John in marketing, who keeps popping by your desk unannounced. So it’s no wonder that we are sometimes more dismissive than we intend.
While occasional brusqueness is bound to happen from time to time, it’s certainly something to be aware of, since brushing people off—verbally or not—can impact your career. At its worst, it can indicate a lack of compassion and diminished emotional intelligence, according to Daniel Vahab, career expert and president of DRV Staffing.
So if you’re looking to brush up on your oh-so-critical soft skills in 2020, take a moment to think about the ways you could be coming across unintentionally dismissive in the workplace:
You’re always on your phone
While our ever-connected devices provide instant updates on work and personal matters alike, checking our phones can be a mindless habit—or even a safety blanket when faced with a potentially awkward social interaction. When we are scrolling on our phones, rather than listening to a subordinate express their opinion or a colleague’s presentation in a meeting, it gets noticed.
If you’re in charge of other people, it can sets a negative precedent, resulting in a ripple effect within your team. “Everyone is constantly on their devices. . . . It can cause us humans to be, well, less human with one another,” says Vahab. “[It] shows that you’re not fully engaged and don’t seem to care about the conversation or presentation.”
Instead, make a point to disconnect from your device during important interactions and one-on-ones to not only create an example but to be courteous of others, as well.
You’re constantly late
Your friends may be used to your tardiness, and thus, plan around the fact you’ll be 15 minutes late to dinners or parties. But in a professional setting, not being mindful of your arrival is a fast way to damage your reputation. Nothing screams ‘my time is more valuable than yours’ than consistently being tardy—especially when you’re the one asking for the gathering, says Amanda Augustine, career expert for TopResume.
“When you’re in management, your calendar will often get packed with back-to-back meetings that make it nearly impossible to stay on schedule,” she continues. “Things will happen that are outside of your control, but there are some preventative measures you can take to avoid this dismissive behavior.”
To better manage your time, Augustine suggests testing a buffer system that provides 10 to 15 minutes of wiggle room. This may not always be a perfect science, but the more you try to be diligent about your time and the time of others, the more supported—and respected—your team will feel, regardless of your seniority.
You don’t ask for help, even when you need it
Overcommitted, overconfident, and likely overtired, some people push themselves so hard, they crumble. Are you the type of person who feels themselves cracking under the pressure but continues to insist that you’ve “got this”?
Vahab reminds professionals that doing everything on their own is not only unreasonable but can even send a dismissive vibe. “Teamwork is an essential quality to positive work performance,” he says. “Take advantage of the collective assistance available, and don’t dismiss others who want to—and can effectively—add value.”
You aren’t consistent
When a coworker comes to you with a stellar idea, you’re game to listen and banter feedback. But when it comes time to present the concept and your boss seems iffy about the approach, do you defend your colleague? Or choose the path of least resistance, and dismiss the concept? Unfortunately, many professionals do the latter to save face, says industrial-organizational psychology practitioner and workplace expert Amy Cooper Hakim.
Hakim says that though this is a very common tactic, it can greatly damage team efficacy and morale. To resolve this, she suggests letting your team know that you have their backs, but that there are certain times when it is more appropriate to share differing opinions.
You ask for ideas and feedback—but don’t listen
In theory, everyone should be working to create an office culture where all ideas are respected and all working styles are encouraged. But in practice, there’s a difference between asking for feedback and actually listening to it and taking action.
Leaders want to have an open-door policy (and mentality), but it isn’t helpful if you don’t make a point to address concerns, make changes, and improve employee spirit. “Thank your employee for bringing this matter to your attention and encourage them to propose a solution they’ve thought through,” Augustine says. “By acknowledging the person’s complaint and encouraging them to be part of the solution, you will not only avoid coming across as dismissive, but you will also help nurture the all-important creative problem-solving skills in your employees.”