17 Things You Do That Get on Your Boss’s Nerves and Hurt Your Career

Avoid damaging your career by avoiding these behaviors that annoy your boss.
Updated March 10, 2023
Fact checked
female boss angry at employees holding papers in hands at work

We receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

While staying on your boss’s good side could help advance your career, getting on their nerves could hurt it. Sometimes, even the small things can aggravate superiors when done frequently.

By avoiding these actions, you can avoid irritating your boss and damaging your professional future and the opportunity to see if you can retire early.

Always showing up late

dusanpetkovic1/Adobe businessman walking in corridor checking wrist watch while talking on phone

Things happen, and arriving a minute or two late could happen once in a while. But if it becomes a habit, you’re probably making your boss angry.

Rather than giving yourself barely enough time for the commute, leave a little early so any delays won’t make you late.

You never know what you could run into. Traffic conditions can change daily, and flat tires happen out of the blue.

Leaving work early

Alberto/Adobe man standing in front of lockers waving hand at employees in the background

Constantly having emergencies that cause you to leave work early is a problem. Your boss expects you to complete your shift.

While true emergencies can occur, considering every little thing an emergency isn’t likely to go over well with superiors.

Remember, it’s up to you to secure reliable childcare and schedule appointments outside of work hours when possible.

When you do need to leave earlier than expected, clear it with your boss with as much notice as possible.

Not learning from mistakes

mtrlin/Adobe male student sitting in front of laptop on table covering face

Everyone makes mistakes, but no one wants to correct the same mistake over and over again.

While you should try your best not to make them in the first place, not learning from your missteps are likely to make them even worse.

Criticizing without offering solutions

NDABCREATIVITY/Adobe angry businesswoman holding papers in hands squinting eyes with employees talking in background

Pointing out areas that need improvement might prove a good move when done correctly, but it’s not helping the company when you’re overly critical.

If you don’t have any real suggestions for improving these areas, you might as well keep your thoughts to yourself.

Criticizing work processes can also hit a nerve with your boss. You don’t want them to think you’re criticizing them as your superior. So think carefully before bringing your ideas to your boss’s attention.


Yuliia/Adobe team of colleagues sitting at table having dispute over something at work

Keep complaining out of the workplace. Your boss doesn’t want to hear how much you hate your job or anything else for that matter.

Even if the complaints don’t have anything to do with work, save them for your friends or family.

Making excuses

deagreez/Adobe African American man sitting at table thinking about something while writing on notebook

Never make excuses for your mistakes. Your boss doesn’t want excuses for why you’re late or why something never got done.

And never make excuses by placing blame on other coworkers or management. Own up to your mistakes, and don’t repeat them instead.

Showing too much initiative

Matthew Cerff/peopleimages.com/Adobe woman at work stressing because of workload by colleagues

Showing too much initiative includes offering to perform tasks you aren’t equipped to handle or taking over coworkers’ work without a prior discussion.

It’s a good idea to show initiative, but stepping on other’s toes and trying to do something outside of your skill level will only cause your boss and everyone else problems.

Wasting time at work

Martin Villadsen/Adobe Happy woman using smartphone at office with boss standing behind her

You might think of wasting time as taking too many breaks and getting up from your desk. But every time you take a personal call, scroll social media, or do nothing at all, it’s wasted time.

Save sending that text until your next scheduled break. You might want to try using the bathroom on your breaks as well.

It’s understandable if you need to use the restroom throughout the day, but using it right before or after a break can aggravate your boss.

Having a negative attitude

Clayton D/peopleimages.com/Adobe african american woman rolling eyes while standing in office

Negativity is contagious. If you’re always miserable at work, chances are those around you will feel miserable too, including your boss.

Miserable employees also tend to get less done. Don’t hinder your coworkers’ productivity. Try not to let your bad mood show through at the office.

Keeping a positive attitude is especially important if you interact with clients or customers. Everything you do reflects on the company and your boss, so stay pleasant and professional.

Resisting constructive criticism

Antonioguillem/Adobe woman boss sitting in front of man colleague saying no

Your superiors give you constructive criticism, so you know what to do differently next time. Instead of taking it personally and letting it hurt your feelings, apply their feedback to the next situation and show them you can improve.

The ability to implement constructive criticism is an important trait and one necessary for advancing within your company.

If you have your eyes on that next promotion, listen carefully and take your boss’ suggestions.

Making guesses

Brastock Images/Adobe woman with visual impairment struggling to read the content on her laptop

You should never guess at work. It could cost the company time and money or cause unnecessary confusion. If you don’t know how to do something, ask for clarification.

When asked something you don’t know the answer to, offer to find out instead of making a guess or estimate. Attend meetings and conferences as prepared as possible and make notes so you can refer back to them later.

Not disclosing bad news

WavebreakMediaMicro/Adobe woman asking for silence by keeping fingers on her lips

No one wants to bring bad news, especially to their boss. But withholding information can come back to bite you later.

You won’t want your boss to find out once the problem has become worse, and you don’t want them to hear the bad news from someone else.

Constantly needing validation

luismolinero/Adobe woman architect in suit standing with blue prints in hands

You want to feel appreciated at work and know you perform the job well, but constantly seeking validation from your boss will annoy them.

Don’t waste their time looking for approval for everything you do. Do a good job, and your boss will appreciate it.

Gossiping about coworkers

Mangostar/Adobe colleagues sitting at table gossiping about female boss sitting in front of them

Participating in office gossip is one way to hurt your career. Creating conflict with coworkers creates conflict in the workplace.

Try to stay out of the gossip, even if all your coworkers involve themselves in it. Your boss will take notice.

Bringing personal problems to work

Antonioguillem/Adobe woman sitting in front of laptop covering her face in despair

As hard as it is sometimes, try to leave your personal problems at home. Letting your personal life interfere with your work productivity won’t impress your boss.

Even talking too much about your personal life at work can make you appear unprofessional.

Acting like the boss

JustLife/Adobe businessman discussing work on phone

Acting like the boss will make your boss angry, and it’s sure to make your coworkers angry too. Treat your coworkers like coworkers and not subordinates, even if you have seniority.

There’s a big difference between offering your expertise and experience to newer hires and acting like their superior.

Making too much noise

Pixel-Shot/Adobe Woman with hands on her head seems bothered while meeting in the back where other woman stands and talks with hands up

We don’t just mean talking too loudly. Whistling, tapping your desk, and phone notifications can all cause disruptions in the workplace. Try to keep the noise level to a minimum, so you don’t disturb others around you.

Bottom line

insta_photos/Adobe colleagues in the office chatting joyfully

Some of the things on this list might seem obvious, but the more subtle aggravations can lead to big annoyances too.

The less you get on your boss’s nerves, the better your chance of getting the next promotion or a bigger raise.

If you have a boss who’s impossible to please despite what you do, you can always look at joining another company. A new job might even come with a higher pay rate and boost your bank account.

Search Over 80,000 Care and Service-Related Jobs

Connect with paying families looking for care and service-related work. Available jobs include child care, tutoring, senior care, pet care, and housekeeping.

Sign up for Care.com now
Earn Great Pay Working From Home

Free 3-class intro teaches you how to launch a bookkeeping business

Access the training
Earn Cash Taking Surveys

Join a community of 20M+ lifetime members who have been paid $76 million to date.

Sign up today

Author Details

Katelyn Washington Katelyn Washington is a writer with a passion for finance and business. She put herself through business school as a single mother of three and has had pieces commissioned by national magazines. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with her family and editing manuscripts for indie authors.

Want to learn how to make an extra $200?

Get proven ways to earn extra cash from your phone, computer, & more with Extra.

You will receive emails from FinanceBuzz.com. Unsubscribe at any time. Privacy Policy

  • Vetted side hustles
  • Exclusive offers to save money daily
  • Expert tips to help manage and escape debt