Monday, October 22, 2007

Sabotaging Your Own Career

I've spent two decades writing about career challenges and how to get ahead. I've interviewed hundreds of experts and read thousands of pages of research material, trying to find the best information I can to help others be successful in their careers.

And here's the one thing I've come to realize: Some of you simply don't want to get ahead.

That's right. There are those of you in the workplace today who are afraid, for one reason or another, of success.

So, while there can be the best career advice in the world out there (ahem), there are still some people who are just going to ignore it because they're afraid of what might happen if they try.

It's time to own up to the fact that your not getting ahead is not the fault of the boss or your co-workers or even the economy. Nope...it rests squarely on your shoulders, my friend. And while I certainly would never attempt to provide the psychological reasoning behind your fears, I can certainly point out some of the fastest ways to derail your career:

Being late. While some work environments have become more flexible, bosses still don't like it when a worker shows up late, whether it's for a meeting or for work. When businesses decide to cut costs, you can bet some of the most vulnerable to the pink slip will be those who have shown little respect for the boss or co-workers by being tardy so many times. You know deep down that being late is a problem, yet you continue to do it, right? So, why are you doing something so obvious that draws so much attention to you in a negative way?

Procrastination. You put things off as long as you can, and then scramble to get a project done on time. The result is that other team members are truly pissed that they are forced to scramble to get the work done right along with you, and the work you turn in is not really quality stuff. You've known for a long time that this work was due, and several team members offered you help, but you declined. Congratulations! You're now officially considered a bottleneck. Don't count on getting that corner office any time soon and don't be surprised when your team members TP your car.

Being unprofessional. This can range from wearing sloppy, inappropriate clothes to work to talking like a surfer dude to telling dirty jokes at staff meetings. If you come off as immature and unprofessional -- whether you're 23 or 43 -- then the boss will have serious reservations about putting you in any kind of situation where you will be representing the company. (For the record, that can range from answering the phone to attending a key meeting with clients to working a company-sponsored charity event.)

Acting like a jerk. When you don't use basic manners that were drilled into you since kindergarten, when you put others down for the way they look or when you act like a pompous, inconsiderate ass, then you're officially acting like a jerk. These kinds of behavior are like an invisible force field that cause people to stay away from you as much as possible. Kiss success buh-bye.

Finally, let me stress that while there are many other ways you can dig your own career grave, the point is to realize that you may need outside help to understand why you are so clearly setting yourself up to fail. If you consistently fall short in meeting your goals, if you don't take advantage of opportunities that come your way -- then it may be time to figure out not just what you're doing wrong but why you're doing it.

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5 comments:

michael holley smith said...

You are correct that there are a lot of folks out in the workplace who settle for the minimum (and complain the loudest) and haven't a clue how clueless they are. That just makes the high achievers and best performers even more desirable. Most workers I've been around (and they number in the thousands) essentially expected good things and rewards to be delivered by mediocre managers or business owners, not because they deserved them, but because they were entitled to them, just for showing up. It's the education system that feeds this warped sense of entitlement, and bodes poorly for our globally competitive future.

Anita said...

That's an interesting point, and one I had not stopped to consider when I was writing this entry. The education system has always been debated, and more so since the standardized testing. Even MBA programs are under the gun.

Working Girl said...

Yikes. So true. When are people going to realize that when they are chronically late (for no good reason) it's just a way of saying, "You and your time and your priorities mean nothing to me."

Those "little things" you mentioned are so important.

Can't believe it's taken me all this time to discover your blog! I've been reading your column for ages.

Steve said...

Interesting perspective. I think more people are sabotaging their careers than are proactively managing their careers. Just discovered your blog -- like what I see so far.

Liz said...

Great advice. Its so easy to make mistakes or slip in to patterns of behavior that can sabotage your career. It has been my observation that many of these behaviors surface when an employee becomes unhappy at work for whatever reason.

Liz