10 examples of shockingly unprofessional behaviour

Industry News & Insights An irritated businessman with his feet up on his desk as a coworker stands by

So, I like to meditate for about ten minutes in the mornings at work (read about why you might also want to do this here). At one job, I was using one of the small meeting rooms on our floor to do this and one day, when I sat down and crossed my legs, I saw that there were scattered nail clippings on the floor – large ones, so I have to assume toenails. I jumped up and practically ran out of the room.

Now, I ask you: who on Earth would clip their toenails at work and leave them scattered on the floor? They didn’t leave a note, so I can only guess.

Someone with questionable hygiene practices, certainly. Someone with no sense of decorum, definitely. And, of course, someone who doesn’t know how to behave in a professional setting. Because clipping your toenails in an office meeting room and leaving them on the floor is wildly unprofessional behaviour.

Not all unprofessional behaviours are quite so bizarre. One woman who worked for me just showed up drunk on morning at 9:30 a.m., which I feel is comparatively less strange though equally, if not much more, unprofessional.

Here are the top ten behaviours that have no place in the office (enjoy!):

    1. Getting emotional/flying off the handle
    2. Letting personal relationships influence business decisions
    3. Dressing sexy or sloppy
    4. A lack of hygiene – including but not limited to bad breath and body odour
    5. Flirting (this can go beyond unprofessional and turn illegal if you cross the line to harassment)
    6. Blaming
    7. Shirking
    8. Making excuses
    9. Not keeping your word and/or disrespecting agreements and contracts
    10. Showing disrespect to anyone, including superiors, peers, subordinates, or customers

We sourced some real life examples of these, and other, behaviors.

Here are ten tales of shockingly unprofessional conduct.

    • “I was let go from a bank-owned financial institution. My manager sat in on the dismissal and he cried at the end. He was either manipulative or intensely weird. The HR officer administering the session looked mortified.” – Mike

    • “The new CEO took a ‘snow day’ the day after he was appointed and announced to the company. N.B.: HE took a snow day, he didn’t declare one. The rest of us worked.” – Neil

    • “Lunch stealing is common, so much so that at an old job, someone put ex-lax in their own lunch and it was the last time a lunch was stolen. The thief would sometimes eat half the lunch and put it back in the fridge… freak!” – Melanie

    • “Someone threw a paper weight at me.” – Alan

    • “A guy I worked with at an ad agency was always complaining that his computer was waaayyyy slow. An I.T. fellow came to his office to see what the problem was, and he was shortly thereafter escorted out of the office with cardboard box of personal items in hand. Turns out his computer was so slow cause he jammed it completely full of hours upon hours of adult videos!!” – Alexis

    • “I saw someone open someone else’s paycheck from the mail slot to see what they got paid…yikes!” – Amanda

    • “I walked in on an engineer weighing drugs on some scales in his briefcase, which was open on his desk. The temp agency called me the next morning to say they no longer needed me.” – Siobhan

    • “I used to work for a large multinational technology and media company. The CEO used to send out occasional rambling, obviously drunken emails late at night to ALL Staff, globally. ‘I know we have our ups and downs – but we need to believe in who we are and try to live up to that no matter what people are saying about some of us, know what I mean? We really have to be better than them. You know who I’m talking about. I love you guys.’” – Peter

    • “One of my ex colleagues sent an angry email to the CEO explaining why she had to leave the company. She had issues with and a personal vendetta against the CEO’s assistant. The thing is, she copied the whole organization.” – Sheila

    • “I worked with one guy who swore a lot and told really inappropriate, sexist and dirty jokes. He never seemed to pick up on how uncomfortable he was making everyone. He was let go after a year.” – Lisa

  • De Morris

    Wow, that’s pretty mild next to what I had to put up with from my former boss . . .

    • Ruth Elizabeth Bromstein

      Do tell…

  • Ailatan

    I currently work for a privately-owned environmental consulting firm. Our Field Manager (and part owner of the company) is known for taking holidays early in the year for 3 months straight. This year when he went away he texted one of the Field Technicians that he’s fairly close with. He was bragging that he had sex with a 20 year old hooker. Clearly he was drunk. The Field Technician then proceeded to tell everyone in the office and even showed off the text messages that were sent between them. Talk about inappropriate. And here’s the kicker: There was NOTHING done about this behavior. Because it’s a small, privately-owned company, the other owners basically turned the other way and pretended like nothing happened. Talk about being unproffessional.

  • Taha A.Ahmed

    yea, I used to work as a material testing technician. The senior coworker who was supervising me grabbed my hand in the middle of me testing fresh concrete, violently waving his hand at me as if I was some disobedient child, and yelled at me saying that all my work was failing and everyone at the office was complaining against me. Worse yet was that it happened in front of the client and contractor and construction workers, so the fact that this happened in front of our clients and in public was humiliating. Even worse was that when I yelled back “WHAT THE F—-” following the grapple, he yelled “YOU SAY F— TO YOUR FATHER!!!?” And when he said that, I was completely shocked he’d bring a very private and personal matter to a work and public environment. I mean, both he and I were from South Asia but on what matter did he compare himself to my father?!?

    I reported this to my supervisor and boss, where the supervisor took the support of the assaulter saying he has years of experience in the field. The next thing you know, they gave me a very lame and pathetic excuse to terminate me.

    To end things in a good note, the assaulter got fired after I heard rumours of him being hostile to all the junior technicians upto our boss.

  • Tamzin Talock

    In my last job I saw it all: drinking, swearing, bullying, backstabbing,
    making fun of clients and older co-workers. I never experienced such level of unprofessionalism,
    and I come from a third world country.

  • thenomad

    If only our organisation would do something about those that behave unprofessionally at the office. One of the managers actually sent a rude email to the other managers about something he was upset with, and he used a lot of foul language and called some of the support staff names as well as accused them of various things. That email was forwarded to the director, who didn’t do anything about it. The person didn’t even get a talking to 🙁