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8 Behaviours That May Be Damaging Your Career

By Gerald Walsh ©

Have you ever felt angry at being passed over for a promotion? Or felt the disappointment of not receiving the raise you wanted?

And when you feel these emotions, do you look for someone else to blame?

I bet, if you’re like most human beings, your first inclination is to blame your employer. After all, they are one who made the decision. Shouldn’t they be to blame?

But this may be just the time to take a careful look at yourself. Your own behaviours could well be the cause of the problem, not your employer.

Let me give you a few examples of what I mean and consider whether you are displaying any of these behaviours:

1. Falling apart under stress

In senior roles, you are expected to be able to endure adverse events and stressful situations without falling apart. Whether it is a serious financial problem, a challenging employee, an unreasonably tight deadline, or an uncooperative iPhone, you must be resourceful and overcome this stress with poise, composure and confidence.

2.Inability to see the big picture

The best career opportunities will occur for those who see the big picture. Don’t be a naysayer – a pessimist who gleefully explains to everyone why a new idea will not work. Be strategic and lead a discussion about how a new but perhaps flawed idea can be revised to meet your company’s overall mission and goals. If you do, you will relate better to senior management’s way of thinking.

3.Making unreasonable demands on your boss

Making unreasonable demands on your employer about compensation, vacation, or working conditions comes across as arrogant – a trait that is certain to limit your career. Some senior managers believe that younger workers must “pay their dues” before they are entitled to even ask for such perks. This clash between generations can cause angst in the workplace and more than one career has been abruptly derailed by a senior manager wanting to put a demanding employee in his or her place.

4.Overlooking the social aspects of work

Some people prefer to close their door, put their head down, and get the job done. There’s no question: this can enhance productivity and efficiency. But many of these people forget they are working as part of a team. It is important to take the time to show interest in your co-workers’ lives. In order to grow your career, it’s better to be liked. You must be seen as human, personable and empathetic. Of course, you can go overboard by socializing excessively and not getting your job done. That too can harm your career. Find the right balance.

5.Not learning from your mistakes

In the long run, your successes matter more than your mistakes, yet you learn more from your mistakes. Mistakes are a problem only if you don’t learn from them, ignore or conceal them, rationalize them, or blame others for them. Real learning takes place when you try to understand what happened, what went wrong and why.

6.Ignoring generally-accepted office behaviours

Not everybody likes to conform but behavioural norms do exist in the office. And violating them could limit your career. In business, behaviours that can damage your career include: spreading gossip, using sexist or foul language, backstabbing, taking credit for other people’s work, arrogance, inappropriate use of email, apathy, bullying, and constantly needing to be the centre of attention.

7.Refusing to admit that you don’t know how to do something

When assigned a task, your manager may provide very little direction on how to perform the task. Perhaps your manager is a poor communicator or mistakenly believes you have the necessary skills to do the job. Having the confidence to say you are not sure how to handle the task is a sign of strength, not weakness. After all you can’t be expected to have all the answers all the time. Tell your manager that you do not understand. You will avoid mistakes and embarrassment.

8.Having a pessimistic attitude

The successful people I’ve met over the years look at the world with optimism. They see the good in most things and maintain a positive attitude even in the face of adversity. They approach problems with confidence, convinced they can be dealt with, yet “call a spade a spade” when necessary. Because of their pleasant, upbeat manner, they are also much more enjoyable to be around.


Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and writer. During a 25+ year career, he has interviewed more than 10,000 job candidates, completed hundreds of successful searches for a range of organizations and guided many individuals – from young professionals to senior executives – to successful career change. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career.” You can follow Gerry on Twitter @Gerald_Walsh and learn more at www.geraldwalsh.com.