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March 7, 2017 > Are you sabotaging your career?

Are you sabotaging your career?

By Anne Chan, PhD, MFT

True story. A colleague did not want to spend money on a parking permit so he parked on the neighborhood streets next to his company. These streets, however, had two-hour parking limits and were vigilantly patrolled by meter maids. To avoid getting a ticket, this colleague skipped out of work every two hours to move his car. Every single one of his breaks was noted by his boss, who had a desk right next to him. His boss was, quite understandably, not happy with his frequent absences. The relationship between the two deteriorated and the boss had nothing positive to say about his subordinate. It seems obvious that leaving work every two hours is not a smart thing to do, yet, this particular employee did not seem to realize that he was sabotaging his career.

If you feel like your career is stagnating or that your work life is not working out, consider the possibility that you might be unintentionally sabotaging your career. You may not think you are doing anything wrong, but unfortunately, there are many ways in which your actions or behaviors might be negatively perceived by others. Here are just a few examples of career-sabotaging things that people do at work:

Arrive late to work
Take too many bathroom breaks
Take lengthy lunch hours
Drinking too much at a company event
Do too much non-work tasks on company time
Have a poor attitude toward oneÕs co-workers, supervisors, or job duties
Leave work early
Post something inappropriate on social media
Refuse to admit mistakes
Make too many demands instead of focusing on getting the job done
Be sloppy
Be too chatty with co-workers
Not follow through with promises to do things
Sleep on the job (yes, literally!)
Not meet deadlines
Say negative things about former bosses or companies during an interview
Hop from job to job too frequently

Do any of the above ring true for you? If so, take an honest look at yourself and figure out why you are sabotaging your careerÑbefore things get serious. ItÕs never too late to turn over a new leaf or to make a positive change in your work life. If youÕre bored at work, see if you can ask for more challenging assignments. Offer to help senior people with tasks. The additional project will not only add an extra dimension to your work, it will also broaden your skill set. Showing your initiative and drive might also put you in a prime position to be considered for a promotion.

If your boredom and distaste are too great to be addressed with a simple fix, you might have to think about looking for a new job. Again, this is where it helps to be a stellar employee in your current position, awful as it may be. It is always useful to get a good reference from your current boss to help you move to a new and (hopefully) better position. You have to clean up your act even if you are thinking of moving on.

Maybe you love your job and your company, but get away with self-sabotaging behavior simply because you can. Ask yourself this: ÒAm I really getting away with this?Ó Everybody knows whatÕs going on in a workplace, and even if you think no one notices, people take mental notes when you leave your desk too often, or switch screens every time they walk by. DonÕt kid yourself.

Some of you may think, ÒWhatÕs the big deal with any of these things?Ó The big deal is that every one of the above actions decreases your bossÕs estimation of your value to the company. If you are deemed to be detracting from the company, you could be the next one fired or laid off. On top of this, youÕve ruined your chances of getting a good reference. YouÕve also ruined your chances of getting re-hired or promoted in the company.

As a career counselor, I often work with distressed people who have become laid-off or fired. More often than not, they acknowledge that they played a role in their own layoff. It might have started with something fairly benign, like sneaking out of work early. But over time, their behaviors worsened along with their relationships with their bosses. The end result is usually predictable. DonÕt let this happen to you! My hope in writing this article is that you will take positive steps to create positive changes for yourself.


Anne Chan is a career counselor and licensed psychotherapist in Union City. She specializes in helping people find happiness in their careers, lives, and relationships. © Anne Chan, 2017.

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