10 Ways You're Sabotaging Your Own Success
Last Updated: Mar 16, 2017
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You work hard, meet your deadlines and make nice with the higher ups, but it hasn't been enough to secure that promotion. Are there some sneaky behaviors that have made themselves at home in your cubicle and are sabotaging your prospects? From oversharing last night’s drinks-capades to groaning about another meeting alert in your inbox, these are 10 times you may have gotten in the way of your own success.
BEING TOO NEGATIVE
Your boss drops another project in your lap and, rather than accept the challenge with at least a modicum of enthusiasm, you immediately start complaining. Sound familiar? If your first reaction when asked to take on new responsibilities is groaning about how this will mean extra work, longer hours, no extra compensation and no praise at the end, you need to rethink your approach. Perhaps you are genuinely overworked and this is the tipping point, or you may not be fostering a can-do attitude.
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HOW TO DEAL
A sense of humor is key, according to Lauren Handel Zander, co-founder and chairwoman of the Handel Group, an international life-coaching company. “Realize that the thought is negative and give your trait a nickname,” she says. “For instance, if you’re constantly concerned about germs, you may refer to this trait as ‘Typhoid Mary.’ When a negative germ-thought appears, call it by name.” Try flipping it into something more powerful, telling “Typhoid Mary” to back off because you’re in great health. Channel that negative energy into turning those unexpected new projects into positive opportunities. Recommends Zander: “Take a leadership position on the project, document the project’s successes and highlight them at your next review."
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BEING TOO RIGID
The idea of staying in your lane is now an outdated one — no one can approach a job as a single-task position anymore. Flexibility and resiliency are key skills that are becoming more and more sought after. According to a study by Right Management in the U.K. called The Flux Report, “In five years’ time, 91 percent of HR decision-makers think it is likely that people will be recruited on their ability to deal with change and uncertainty.” A new generation of multihyphenate, multitasking employees could leave your rigid self behind.
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HOW TO DEAL
“Be more OK with uncertainty” may seem like the obvious answer, says John Sandahl, nationally recognized personal and life coach expert and founder of Warrior Team Coaching. Yet we all know it’s not that easy. “To learn to be more fluid takes time, practice and experience, particularly with ‘being uncomfortable,’” he says. “Confidence comes through experience, which means creating opportunities for small sustainable change and, therefore, small wins.” Try practicing small risks with people who you trust. In the meantime, he says, “Many issues can be solved with open and honest communication about work style and needs.” And remember that there are rewards for those with great critical judgment skills — as long as they don’t fall prey to the blind spot of being inflexible and hard to work with.
Healthy competition can be great in the workforce: It energizes some, propels others to achieve and creates a dynamic, energetic environment. But a nasty competitive streak can also quickly turn things toxic.
HOW TO DEAL
If others’ successes are making you jealous to the point of distraction, try to refocus your goals and evaluate your own contributions objectively. How is your attitude contributing to the environment? Can you feel good about your goals despite what others are doing around you? Assess whether the current work environment is the right one for you.
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AVOIDING WORK EVENTS
Unless you are in your early twenties, when heading out after work is a given, going to work events after hours is usually a drag. But this is typically where the boss lets her hair down. Do you really want to miss that? Casual conversations at these events are crucial because they could expose a mutual interest or passion. (Try doing that on a 30-second elevator ride, where everyone is looking at their cell phones).
HOW TO DEAL
You don’t need to stay all night and do shots with the IT department, but do make sure you get some face time with your higher-ups. Who knows, maybe they’ll let you in on a position opening or a new project coming down the pipeline that could potentially lead to a promotion.
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Known for rushing to meetings or missing deadlines? It’s not a good look. Chronic tardiness sends a message that you just don’t respect other people and their time. John Sandahl recognizes that this behavior usually means something else is going on with the individual. “Health issues, trouble at home, lack of training or awareness or, more simply, the person just doesn’t care or feels unconnected to their work or purpose.”
HOW TO DEAL
Take a tip from a life coach like Sandahl and ask yourself some questions about the “purpose” and the “why” of your work. The questions are meant to help you “reassess and perhaps reframe or reconnect to your responsibilities.” If you are constantly missing deadlines, speak to your supervisor about managing expectations. Perhaps the timelines were overzealous when they were created, or maybe you need help prioritizing and managing your time. In general, being open and honest with your boss will lead to less surprises and better communication for everyone.
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BROADCASTING YOUR EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES
Last night may have been epic, but that doesn’t mean everyone wants to hear about it. Here’s an easy rule of thumb. Ask yourself: Would you tell your mother all those sordid details? Keep it G-rated and reserve all the explicit details for your best friends at Saturday brunch, Sex in the City-style. Zander adds, “Usually people that are oversharing don’t know they’re oversharing. They simply want love and attention.”
HOW TO DEAL
Regardless, it’s never a good idea to allow your co-workers to follow the minutia of your personal life, IRL or on social media. Being too open about your personal life may do more damage than good. “Not to mention, your posts may never disappear and have the potential to follow you for a lifetime,” says Zander. A simple way to take control of who sees (and who doesn’t see) your Facebook posts is by using the audience selector. This way you can easily keep your work friends and your social friends separate.
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You might not like it, but getting feedback and criticism is unavoidable in the workplace. It’s also an integral part of personal and professional growth. Even if it’s hard to hear, you should still seek out feedback. How else will you know if you are constantly interrupting your boss or if she hates Times Roman font? Every chance you get to improve is a chance to succeed.
HOW TO DEAL
Flip the script. “‘Learning’ is not a dirty word,” says Zander. Think about it this way: There’s always room for improvement. “When receiving feedback, the best way to stop yourself from taking it too personally and getting defensive is to listen to the person and then repeat [what you hear] back in your own words.” Zander also recommends spending the next week or two paying attention to your behavior, keeping track of instances and actively changing. Then approach your boss to explain how the feedback was beneficial and what you learned and thank them for the insight.
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The new girl just started, and already it looks like she’s become the boss’ favorite — a title you’ve held for the past few months. Feeling inflamed with jealousy, you dig up some dirt on her and tell a few key people who you know will spread the word around. You might think you’re trying to protect yourself, but there’s no guarantee your rumor-milling won’t backfire. “Office gossip is incredibly damaging to teams and individual’s reputation,” says Sandahl. “Trust takes a long time to build, and it can be lost in a second by this kind of behavior.”
HOW TO DEAL
It’s called the high road. Instead, take this opportunity to build a relationship. Your so-called rival may actually have some knowledge or skills that your boss has been hounding for you to develop. Better yet, she could become an ally at work, a lunch buddy or even a new friend. Sandahl says, “People gossip for the same reasons that they started doing it in middle school. It feels good, and it’s often a quick fix if we’re feeling powerless or underappreciated.” Caught red-handed? Sandahl advises remedying the situation quickly. “Own it ASAP, and do whatever you can to express your regret and sincerely apologize. Work hard to rebuild trust.” In his experience helping leaders and teams avoid gossip, a key is helping them become aware of the impact and how pervasive it can be.
NOT TAKING RESPONSIBILITY
Pointing fingers or throwing a colleague under the bus means you’re avoiding being accountable for an issue. Whether you’re suffering from a fear of failure or just feeling overwhelmed, always asking someone else to do work you’ve been asked to do is a bad habit. It’s not delegating, it’s passing the buck. Not accepting responsibility for your duties will not only sabotage your own success, it could also pull down your entire team.
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HOW TO DEAL
Taking ownership of your work will “free you to drive results,” according to John Coleman’s article in the Harvard Business Review. He writes: “The responsibility is yours, and it starts with developing a belief or habit of mind that you, as an individual, are accountable for the quality and timeliness of an outcome, even when you’re working with others.” Simply put: Own it, take action and deliver results. The takeaway? Jumping in and owning the responsibility will ultimately allow you to feel energized, optimistic and empowered and, most likely, rewarded for your work.
One of the worst workplace self-sabotages is feeling like a fraud at your job — and thinking everyone around you can sense it. Perhaps you think your skills are inadequate or that you don’t have the right experience. Maybe past failures have cost you in confidence, and you’re afraid to take control of the situation. Don’t forget that most of us have all felt insecure at some point in our careers.
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HOW TO DEAL
To bolster your confidence, ask questions, do additional research and seek guidance from your network as well as co-workers, both within and outside your department. Get feedback (but see 7 above). Feel secure in the fact that you were hired for a reason. While you may be different from those who have been with the company for ages, your boss found your point of view highly desirable and valuable — don’t waste the opportunity to share your unique perspective.
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