5 sloppy work habits that actually mean you’re a genius

By Anna Brech

Card image

These so-called ‘bad’ office habits are symptoms of great power and intelligence

We’re so quick to judge in the workplace these days, silently wincing at the colleague who bellows loudly on the phone – or sending daggers to that one person (there’s always one) who decides to microwave a pungent plateful of fish come lunch time.

From dodgy music taste to overloud eaters, the office is a veritable hotbed of deeply annoying habits. But what if we’ve been too swift to slam these behaviours? How about – instead of being perennially late/messy/slightly vacant – you or your co-worker is actually *whispers* a genius?

Before you scoff, consider the evidence. There’s a wealth of research out there that shows our seemingly bad habits are actually sort of amazing. They’re linked to creativity, intellect and all sorts of higher powers. So, rather than being irritating, your little workplace foibles could be your secret weapon: a symptom of the inner artist you always knew yourself to be.  Don’t believe us? Read on for the proof:

Being late means you’re highly intelligent

A lightbulb idea

In her book Never Be Late Again, time management expert Diana Delonzor argues that late people are naturally more optimistic than their punctual colleagues. They truly believe they can get more done in less time. A study by San Diego State University found this ability to distort time means the chronically late also have more room for creative thinking.

Late people tend to be relaxed “type B” personalities who are less hemmed in by a sense of urgency, researchers found, and therefore have space to problem-solve and come up with solutions in a way that’s more effective than their harried “type A” (and forever on time) counterparts. Dr Linda Sapadin, a New York psychologist, claims this ability extends to “an obsessive thinking problem“. In other words, you’re so deep in your intellectual mire, that you end up running late as a result. But hey; you can’t rush greatness…

Interrupting people is a sign of (perceived) status and power

Forever interrupting people in meetings? Forget bad manners – it could be a symptom of your natural high status. Studies of group discussions have found that high-status people talk more, and dominate conversation. They are also more likely to be asked their opinion, influence the group’s thinking, receive positive feedback and be selected as leaders.

However, there’s an important caveat here. Other research shows that this feeling of power can be induced (i.e. it may be your perception rather than a reality) and when you interrupt on the back of it, critical information can be left out and expert opinion ignored. So yes, interrupting might mean you’re Mr./Mrs. Big; but ultimately, it may also sabotage your progress.

Having a messy desk fuels the creative mind

If your desk exist in a state of perpetual chaos, fear not. Those week-old coffee cups and crumb-strewn keyboard are merely signals of the creative genius within. In a paper published in the journal Psychological Science, professor Kathleen Vohs and her colleagues at University of Minnesota explore how a cluttered, chaotic workspace seems to encourage people to think outside the box.

Read more: Revive your career with a short, sharp adventure

Their research showed people who worked in disorderly and even unkempt settings were better at coming up with unusual ideas. “Being in a messy room led to something that firms, industries, and societies want more of: Creativity,” said Vohs, presenting the findings. “Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights. Orderly environments, in contrast, encourage convention and playing it safe.”

Talking out loud helps you learn

Muttering out loud to yourself as you go about your work might garner you a few strange looks from your colleagues; but what do they know? This 1982 study found that people who explain ideas to themselves out-loud learn three times as more info compared to those who kept schtum. When you voice your thought process, you slow things down and become more measured the way that you process facts and ideas. This gives you more breadth to explore, question and find connections in the information you’re taking in.

“A lot of what you’re doing in self-explanation is trying to make connections,” University of Illinois psychologist Brian Ross tells HBR writer Ulrich Boser. “Saying to yourself, ‘Oh, I see, this works because this leads to that, and that leads to that.’” This type of cognitive insight, in turn, is a prized workplace skill.

Daydreaming is a sign you’re smarter than most

We often assume that someone who drifts off in meetings lacks focus and direction. But, more likely, it’s a symptom of their enormous brain capacity. A 2017 study by Eric Schumacher and researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology found that people who daydream more have greater intellectual and creative abilities. In MRI scans, this even correlated to more efficient brain systems.

Read more: Grown-up life skills that are totally overrated

“People with efficient brains may have too much brain capacity to stop their minds from wandering,” explains Schumacher. “Our findings remind me of the absent-minded professor — someone who’s brilliant, but off in his or her own world, sometimes oblivious to their own surroundings,” he adds. “Or school children who are too intellectually advanced for their classes. While it may take five minutes for their friends to learn something new, they figure it out in a minute, then check out and start daydreaming.”

So, you go ahead and daydream: that mighty brain of yours needs the stimuli.

Images: 冬城Tachina Lee,  Headway  Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Subscribe to our newsletter


Hear about our new adventures before anyone else

Hear about our new adventures before anyone else.

Be the first to hear about exclusive Flash Pack offers.

Access exciting competitions.

Receive weekly inspiration and travel stories from solos just like you.