5 Habits That Hold You Back At Work


If you’re being held back at work, it may not be everyone else–it may be you. Especially if your desk looks like this. | Source: ShutterStock

If you’ve gotten fired, warned or even just skipped over for a promotion, you already know that you may be at fault–at least partially–for your boss’s misgivings about you. But if you feel like you’re just not getting ahead, that’s something that you may be contributing to as well. If you make any of the following actions a habit, it may explain why you’re stuck … and you may be even worse off if you don’t shape up!

There’s a difference between harmless gossip (“I hear the new water cooler is going to be a Poland Spring!” or “I heard Jess Sager wants Chris Hemsworth to get her pregnant!”) and then there’s harmful gossip: “I hear the new secretary used to be an escort!” or “I hear Jess Sager wants the head of HR to get her pregnant!” Learn the difference and don’t spread bad news. Because chances are it’s not news at all, just rumor–and even if it ends up being true, if the gossip comes back to you, you’re not going to look good, and your cubemates will give you sideeye forever.

Constant Apologizing
If you actually effed up, a mea culpa is a good thing: “I’m so sorry that I forgot to wear pants to the meeting with your new clients. I promise it will never happen again.” But if you’re apologizing for something you didn’t do or that wasn’t your fault, it’s going to make it appear that you’re assuming responsibility for whatever the transgression was–and it’s also going to make you look like a doormat if it happens too often. Don’t discredit yourself–you got hired for a reason!

Companies want you to drink the Kool-Aid–it’s part of what makes you a team player, and bosses love team players. (This may be why Tim Tebow, who always insisted on running the ball, is out of a job right now.) But when the team doesn’t have any out-of-the-box ideas, the team will lose, because everyone knows their plays. Don’t fall into the trap that a lot of long-term employees do, or else you’ll run the risk of not updating your technology or losing a competitive edge, but also don’t try to fight groupthinkers on your own, or else you risk just looking like a bad apple. Appeal to your boss and to one or two individuals within the group and show them how and why your idea is a good one, and they may be able to help you sway the rest of the lemmings to follow suit.

Not Showing Compassion
If your coworker’s face is green, offer to help her with a project so she can leave early and puke in the privacy of her own home. If you know a colleague’s cat died, express your sympathy. And also, don’t assume that because a coworker is unmarried or doesn’t have kids that he or she will be willing to stay at the office late to pick up your slack. It may surprise you, but single people have lives, needs and struggles, too. Like paying for their own drinks (which, admittedly, the overtime pay could help with, but let’s not get off course). We bet everyone will reciprocate when you need a hand–or a reference.

Showing Fear
If you’re scared of getting fired, instead of pointing fingers at everyone around you in your state of panic, take actual action to increase your own results and talk to your supervisors about what you can do to improve. You’ll look brave and command respect–and people don’t like firing people they respect.

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    • Rian Penn

      Showing compassion for your co-workers can help you get ahead in your career. It’s not all about competition, sometimes you need to become a team player as well.