Behaviours that could damage your career

black man with hand on chin thinking and looking down with grey painted bricks in background

How you behave at work can significantly impact how you are perceived by your colleagues and employers. Are you self-aware enough to know how you’re seen by others and able to gauge what they think of you? Most of us have little or no idea about the facial expressions we display or the body language we use yet are acutely aware of other people’s. It’s little wonder, then, that we read so much into the way colleagues come across through their actions – and vice versa.

We all make rapid judgements about whether or not others have respect for us, our team and our wider organisation. You could be the most competent and capable employee in the office but if your outward behaviour says otherwise then it could be damaging your career.

Your bad-behaviour checklist

Take a step back to see whether you display any of these potentially career-crippling behaviours:

Bad attitude – if your attitude is perceived as negative, aggressive or unapproachable then you need to work on improving it, pronto. Try and see the good points in every meeting or proposal – and repeat the mantra ‘there are no problems – only solutions’. Don’t be dismissive of others suggestions no matter how you feel about what was said. Be aware of how you respond to requests and how you comment on what others have said.

Inability to listen – it’s not just about what people are explicitly telling you; there’s often a subtext at play, too. If you’re not a master at reading between the lines, learn to take a hint.

Sub-standard communication – verbal stumbling, poorly written emails and indecipherable notes can all hold you back in your career. If you get nervous speaking in larger groups, read up on handling your nerves. If your spelling and grammar could be better, then look up some helpful tips for improvement. And if your handwriting’s illegible, practise making it neater like you did at school!

Lack of thought and consideration for others – no one likes being put on the spot, embarrassed in public or given unfeasibly short deadlines. Put yourself in their position and consider how you’d feel if it happened to you.

Tardiness – not all organisations have a flexible approach to start times. If punctuality is the preferred workplace culture, abide by it. This also applies to meetings, turn up late to a few of these and you could find others begin to label you as always late.

Consistently missing deadlines – everyone’s allowed the occasional slip-up, but repeatedly failing to hit deadlines – especially those you knew about well in advance – will reflect badly and gain you a reputation as an unreliable worker.

Poor organisation, time-management and prioritisation skills – weaknesses in these areas can have a far-reaching negative impact. Why not speak to your boss and suggest a training course? You could pick up some career-changing tips and methodologies.

Being inflexible – many people find routine so reassuring they become reluctant to part with it, but responding to changing market conditions and the evolving business landscape is essential if you’re going to progress in your career. So if the job or task in hand calls for a more flexible approach, seize the initiative and view the situation in a positive light. What new skills will you learn? What extra knowledge can you gain? Expanding your repertoire always looks good on your CV and proves to current and potential employers how adaptable you are.

Not setting goals or measuring your performance – don’t you want to keep moving forward and progressing up the career ladder? Setting goals can be motivating for employees and performance measurement provides you with a track record of your progress.

Lack of winner mentality – if you do 

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