If you take your work seriously, if you are career-oriented, or if plain and simple, you regard yourself as a workaholic, then you might be tempted to give reading this article a pass.
The title does not strike a chord because it does not resonate with how you conduct yourself at work. Of course, you would never do anything to sabotage your career. Besides, there is something really negative about the word.
‘Sabotage’, its dictionary meaning at least, implies that one is doing something that’s destructive on purpose. But wait! Career sabotage is not only about doing things wilfully. Yes, there are the obvious no-nos, but then there are those actions, generally taken cautiously, consciously, in good faith, and with a strong belief that we are putting our best foot forward, but can still be equally damaging to our career progression.
Let’s start with the obvious self-sabotage behaviours that are easier to recognise. The following are some ways that hurt the career advancement of those who are less driven:
Not venturing outside the parameters of the role
This translates into doing the bare minimum, procrastinating for procrastination’s sake, complaining if asked to do something that is not your job, and acting uninterested during team meetings. It can also include a lack of interest in applying for that promotion.
Showing up late and being one of the first to leave
Nothing says I don’t care about my career more than acting as if work is a cage and life resumes only once the cage door opens when you clock out
There are so many ways this manifests itself, such as gossiping behind colleagues’ backs, picking fights, being inflexible, and complaining all the time.
For the career-driven, the pitfalls are different, but chances are that for those who do not pay attention to the following, the career advancement drawbridge will still remain raised:
This kind of fear also portrays us as hesitant to venture out of the parameters of our role. But this time the reasons are different. We do want to do more, and we are also interested in that promotion, but fear of the unknown and the unfamiliar holds us back. This fear prevents us from networking, from accepting new projects which fall outside our perceived comfort and capability zone, and those that might compromise our drive for perfectionism. A word about perfectionism. It is sometimes the antithesis of success. It leaves us dwelling too much on achieving perfection. It distorts our time management and prevents us from freeing up more slots to do more and differently.
Pride is different to fear. We know our strengths and we know where we stand compared to others. And yet we are afraid to venture beyond just in case we make mistakes and dent our pride. Pride also holds us back from asking for help and feedback. Asking for feedback on our performance is a path towards career advancement because it will make us more proactive if we use it as a learning tool to propel us to the next level.
Failure to use leadership language
Leadership language adds to our credibility and makes us more likely to be noticed. Leadership language avoids words such us maybe and I think. Instead, it sees us framing our statements in terms of I am convinced, I know and I believe. Tone of voice is also relevant to leadership language. It helps us moderate between sounding too tentative and too aggressive.
Unless we challenge ourselves to outgrow these old habits, we will unwittingly be sabotaging our careers, despite investing in our work. Change can be scary but we need to face it because climbing up the career ladder is a journey that requires not only hard work but also professional development and readiness to adapt.
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