How to avoid making career-limiting moves

'Promote me or else' not a good attitude, employment specialist says

A Career Limiting Move (CLM) has a lot in common with that one last drink at office party. It often feels very good at the time, even though a part of you is nagging you not to do it, and you may well regret it later.

With the drink, the regret may come later that night or perhaps along with the headache the next morning. But if you’ve made a CLM — perhaps snapping at the boss about what you really think of his new project or hitting “reply to all” on your snotty email about the new office teabag policy — the regret may come sooner, perhaps in as little as a few seconds.

Writing on Career Journal, Marjorie Brody and Pamela Holland says CLMs come about because people don't “understand or practice the proper rules of acceptable behaviour on the job”.

While the rules of business may seem obvious to some, others find them challenging to follow. Brody and Holland say the ability to act responsibly and thoughtfully are highly desirable traits in an employee.

They believe there are three primary areas of importance: common courtesies (eg being on time, giving credit to others and using basic manners); use of technology (understanding that emails aren’t private, going easy on large attachments, being thoughtful about where you use your cellphone and what you discuss in public and leaving succinct voicemails); and taking responsibility (take 100% responsibility for assignments — instead of blaming others for letting you down, take the responsibility for getting the job done anyway).

Of course CLMs don’t have to be obvious faux pas. Writing on Kiplinger.com, Erin Burt says there are various other ways people sabotage their careers. Number one on her list is procrastination.

“Remember the first time you put off studying for a test then crammed at the last minute and still got a decent grade? Many of us have been procrastinating since grade school and have done just fine, but that's a habit you've got to break.”

Burt’s second “career killer” is having a sense of entitlement. She says the younger generation has been raised on instant gratification, but there is no shortcut to getting experience.

“Younger employees tend to feel entitled to quick promotions…If you carry the attitude that you deserve to be promoted or else, you may find that ‘or else’ is your only option.”

Burt’s third bugbear is settling into the job description. While it’s important for people to meet their job responsibilities, she says they should always watch for new opportunities to show off their talents.

“Settle into your job description for too long and your reputation may be cast as a low-level lackey.”

Writing in The Globe and Mail (and reproduced on BBM Human Resource Consultants), Barbara Moses writes that self-absorption is another no-no.

“Most self-absorbed people, suffering from delusions of self-admiration, don't tend to recognise themselves…Monitor the balance in air time between yourself and your conversational partners. Before sharing another story about yourself, ask: ‘Why would this person care?’ Then show interest in the lives of others by asking them questions about themselves.”

Neediness is another career killer on Moses’ list. She reckons if people don’t get enough feedback from their boss it could be because the boss is busy — and no feedback can be good feedback.

“…ask yourself why you are so dependent on the approval of others to feel good about yourself. Could it be that you don't give yourself enough feedback?”

Being sensitive to others is the crux of many of other things on Moses’ list. For example, she says being boring is another killer.

“How can you know if you are boring? How about when your audience does not probe for more information, or people look distracted when you are talking.”

In addition, Moses says that even if people have strong opinions they should avoid being judgmental.

“Before assuming something is true, ask yourself how you really know, what evidence beyond your own experience you bring to bear. Then soften how you come across… People will listen harder and respect you more if you sound more tentative, and less dogmatic.”

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