15 signs you’re a hot mess at work

How do you know if you’re a hot mess at work? Just ask someone who used to be a helpless young gal struggling to “adult.” I’m speaking of myself, of course, and was a repeat offender of the below bad behavior on a weekly, if not daily, basis. It’s no wonder I was passed over for promotions and special projects; I couldn’t be trusted to act as a professional. If you’re also guilty of these transgressions, repent immediately, and listen up to my advice. It may sound harsh, but the circumstances are harsher. Trust.


1. You show up with wet hair. Clearly you give zero you-know-whats. Rolling in at 9:01 a.m. with wet hair tells me that you don’t manage your time well enough to bathe before arriving to work. On the contrary, I respect your effort because dirty hair is even worse. Dry hairspray abusers also lack time management skills and/or are lazy. Unless you have four kids or single-handedly run a multi-million dollar business, you have time to wash your hair more than once every five days. If you’re unkempt, I’m judging you and don’t trust you to deliver anything within a given schedule. Side note: hair always in your face is also a major no-no. Pull that mess back, but never let me catch you with a hair tie on your wrist as an “accessory.”

2. You cry at work. If you have to cry, do it outside. Not in your office or in a bathroom stall, but leave the building. Go to Starbucks, get a latte, and get yourself together. Better yet, don’t cry at work. Period. It’s just a job, and you’re a badass biatch. Nothing anyone says at work should cause you to get all teary-eyed, or even worse, hyperventilating with sobs. Emotional females at work are perceived as dramatic and unstable. It’s not fair, but you’ve got to suck it up and haul ass to your car when you think you might loose it.

3. You think it’s acceptable to wear flip flops to work. This one kills me. It’s such a repeat offense that I see everywhere, yet I’m so unclear as to why people are putting their feet on display at work. How am I supposed to respect you if you’re sitting across from me in a meeting dangling a Rainbow flip flop from your un-pedicured big toe? Invest in a pair of closed-toe shoes, and then we’ll talk.

4. Your attention to detail is nonexistent. 
If there are constant typos in your emails, you’re a hot mess. I don’t mean the occasional punctuation error that happens from time-to-time because you’re human. I’m referring to the misuse of “there, they’re, and their” and your complete disregard for spellcheck. It makes you appear careless, and your collauges will never trust your communication with a customer if you can’t properly form a sentence without a repeat word and misspellings. Proofread you emails, proposals, and reports ten times if you have to, then ask someone to review behind you just in case. Be engaged in every task and pay attention to the little things (before they become big things).

5. Your desk looks like a copy machine threw up. There’s paper everywhere, and you’re always rummaging to find that report you “literally just saw a second ago.” Coffee cups and candy wrappers are also strewn about, and it appears to me that you’re incapable of organizing your responsibilities. You’re a hot mess, and I’ll pass on your assistance the next time I need an urgent request because the deadline will pass before you can find a pen to write with.

6. You share TMI with co-workers. If Debbie in Purchasing knows that Aunt Flow is late and you’re totally stressing because your ex is suddenly dating a waitress he met on Tinder, hot mess express is now boarding. Personal information is not to be shared at work. These details bring zero value to your company’s strategy nor does it help advance your career in any way, shape, or form, so keep your mouth shut. Word of advice: you can’t trust anyone at work. Not your “work bestie” or Tammy from Reception who is going through an ugly divorce and you can “totally relate.” The entire office will know you’re pregnant before you can even take an EPT.

7. You always have a panty line.
If you’re outward appearance isn’t in check, how can I trust you to catch the outliers in a real work assignment? Panty lines, chipped nail polish, and facial hair are all dead giveaways that you aren’t taking care or business, or yourself.  A chipped manicure is my ultimate pet peeve because we’re not in middle school and three-week-old chipped glitter leads me to believe that your life is in shambles. A polished and put-together impression instills confidence in the other party that you can deliver. Invest in a thong and a full-length mirror.

8. You’re always late. If you’re the girl who loudly sneaks in a meeting after the door is closed, I’m assuming you have better things to do than join the weekly sales call. Those who are always late send the message that their needs are more important than those of the company, the department, or the client (who ultimately pays your credit card bill). Set alerts on your calendar, IPhone, Blackberry, and a Post-it note, so you can arrive on time, every time. I challenge you to arrive five minutes early to each scheduled meeting this week. Your teammates will notice and respect your commitment.

 9. Your boyfriend shows up unexpectedly to argue in the parking lot. I can’t believe the frequency of which I’ve experienced this. If I walk to my car after work and you’re leaned against a pickup truck while “Dusty” lays into you about liking “Ronnie’s” Facebook picture, you’re a hot mess all around. In the eight hours I devote to my job, not a single minute is spent entertaining an idiot male. Heated cell phone conversations are also a surefire way to reveal your priorities. If you sneak away from your desk to argue with “Randy” in the women’s bathroom, I instantly know you don’t care about you job or the fact that your drama is being paid for with company funds. Clock out for emergency personal calls, and reserve baby daddy drama for the weekend.

10. You gossip with anyone who will listen. How to Sabotage Your Career 101: The moment you bad mouth a co-worker or repeat confidential information is the moment your reputation is dunzo. No one will trust you, and you’ll forever be known as an untrustworthy “busybody.” You are much better served to mind your own business. If you witness gossip in the workplace, remove yourself from the situation ASAP. Stay classy, and step away from the water cooler.

11. You always cancel meetings. If you purposely want people to hate you, repeatedly reschedule meetings. Once is okay if you’re totally swamped with legitimately higher priorities, but if you reschedule the same meeting two or three times, I immediately interpret that you don’t care about me or the topic of discussion. At the end of the day, business is all about relationships. Keep your word to the highest extent possible and always commit to managing positive interaction with other people. That means showing up to scheduled meetings.

12. You confuse work attire with casual wear. I’m a huge supporter of versatile, day-to-night looks. If I’m investing in a cashmere sweater, I want to wear it to work with a pencil skirt and then again with jeans and booties for a Friday night date. On the contrary, if you wear a low-cut, cleavage-bearing, sequin-embellished top to the club on Saturday, pairing that with a blazer on Monday does not make it work appropriate. Keep the girls on lock Monday-Friday and leave all Beyonce-inspired looks for Club De La Strip.

13. You flirt too much. As stated in points #6 and #10, reputation is everything at work. The office can be worse than high school, and rumors spread faster than you can walk to the fax machine. While I’m not opposed to flattery when appropriate, I can’t condone flirting in the workplace. It can cause you to be perceived in a negative light, and your co-workers won’t respect you if you bat your eyes and bend over to “pick up a  pencil” every time you see Brad from Accounting. It can also be misinterpreted as sexual harassment, which can lead to a lawsuit real quick. On a separate, but related note, refrain from dating your co-workers. In my personal experience, it never ends well. Never.

14. You’re heavily medicated. If you have a big meeting or presentation in the morning, skip the Valium before bed. Such sedatives can stay in your system for up to seven days, so you’re sure as heck going to feel those effects after only nine hours of sleep. I’ve had many a bad nights that lead to a Xanax-Pinto situation in an effort to soothe my soul; yet I was always disengaged and slurring my words the next day, and people will notice. They could even raise concerns to your manager or HR department (e.g. “Um, I’m pretty sure that Jane is high”). If you have trouble sleeping, try something natural, such as melatonin, or hit the treadmill and wear yourself out before bed.

15. You’re super negative.
Do you fly off the handle when given constructive criticism? Do you become defensive when someone doesn’t like your idea? If so, I’m pretty sure your office mates loathe your existence. Calm the hell down. It’s not that serious unless you’re the CEO, and I doubt that’s the case if you had the time to read this entire blog post. Bring value to your organization with strategic suggestions and a smile on your face. Treat opposition as an opportunity to grow and become better. If you don’t agree with someone’s opinion, grin and bear it, but don’t be a total buzz kill with your dramatics. Huffing and puffing only makes you look immature and incapable of adversity aka a hot mess.

Does any of this sound familiar? Fear not – you can redeem yourself! Share some of your hot mess at-work mishaps in the comments below, and I’ll feature them here with advice on how earn the respect you deserve. Let’s hear it!


A former hot mess bringing you no-nonsense career advice. I’ve been hired, fired, demoted, and disrespected; and it was entirely my fault. I’ve made every possible professional mistake and want you to learn from my screw ups, so you can have the career of your freakin’ dreams.

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