• Susan Fletcher, Ph.D.

Top 10 Productivity Killers at Work


During my Spring Break Staycation I was able to take one of my 3 boys to IHOP for breakfast. It was such a treat for us because it is hard to spend time with each son separately. During breakfast we got into a great conversation about his college applications, planning our next college visit, and then SLAM!

A man in a booth right near us, sitting alone, slammed his fist on his table and screamed into his cellphone at the mechanic on the other end who did work on his car without permission. The man was loud, offensive, obnoxious, and brash. It was like pollution to our brains. We stopped cold, losing our train of thought. What a distraction.

Our productive college planning conversation suddenly became less productive. Outside influences can cause us to leave the Smart Zone and be less productive. Stay in the Smart Zone by recognizing the distractions in your environment that can cause you to be less productive.

  1. Uncomfortable work environment. Too hot, too cold, dirty or cluttered works spaces, bad smells such as popcorn being popped in the microwave or fresh paint are subtle distractions that decrease productivity.

  2. Meetings that go on too long without an agenda or purpose, don't start or end on time, or have a leader who gets off track. Watch a short video about how to keep your your meetings on track or read my blog post, "6 Ways to Keep Meetings from Getting Off Track."

  3. Obsessively checking emails and text messages. When you receive an email or text message do you feel a sense of urgency to respond? Does it bug you for others around you to be constantly checking emails and texting? For some of us, it's necessary. Discipline yourself to check emails at only certain times of the day.

  4. Lack of self-awareness in a cubicle environment with how behavior affects others. Loud phone conversations, friends congregating around an adjacent cubicle when you are trying to concentrate, loud expressions of frustration such as banging or typing loudly, gum smacking or frequent audio text message notifications all contribute to a less productive environment.

  5. A bad apple. If a member of your work team is a "bad apple" (always negative, doesn't pull his/her weight, complains, is depressed) they can derail the group and "spoil the bunch" as the saying goes. If you think a coworker may be depressed, they may be interested in my Special Report on Adult Depression from iTunes.

  6. Poor lighting. This causes you to strain and causes "tired eyes." It's a subtle distraction because most people don't notice the energy drain coming from eye strain.

  7. Lack of trust among coworkers and management. This creates a work environment of suspicion and paranoia. People will withhold information that can help others and avoid taking productive actions because they don't trust others to support them.

  8. Intimidation and fear. Fear of being laid off or reprimanded, intimidation by a supervisor or coworker and hostility among coworkers all distract people from doing their best on the job.

  9. Weak or poor leadership. If employees don't have confidence in the organization's leadership they are less likely to perform up to their potential.

  10. Overworked, burned out and unappreciated employees. Correcting this distraction can be as easy as encouraging employees to take a lunch break instead of working through lunch or acknowledging people's accomplishments. Be mindful that burned out people tend to eliminate the very things that can help them be more productive. Healthcare workers are particularly susceptible to burn out and feelings of compassion fatigue.


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