I’ve worked with a lot of leaders and leader want-a-be’s. Whether they own their own business or work for a Fortune 100 company there are 4 ways about 50% of professionals sabotage their careers. The following are broad generalizations but do provide an interesting picture of the behaviors of those in that 50%.
1) The Champion – Frances is known as someone who just goes after it all. She doesn’t understand why her team can’t live up to her standards, why they can’t produce as much work as she does and she pushes her team to excel every day. Champions like Frances burn out their team and eventually themselves. The problem is management loves Champions because they consistently deliver maybe with a bit of fallout – like a high turnover rate – but that’s acceptable because Frances delivers.
2) Dan/Debbie Downer – Intelligent and knows her stuff but whenever presented with a new idea sees only the reasons why it won’t work. Often times everyone avoids her because she talks about what’s wrong, what’s going to go wrong and why, without her, failure is inevitable. The safest bet for Dan/Debbie Downers is to do nothing and keep the status quo going. After all, it’s work up until now, so why change.
3) Merit mongers – For most people we’re taught that if we just come to work, do a good job and leave the politics out of the workplace. In fact merit mongers hate politics and think it’s a waste of time. Good work should speak for itself and there’s no reason to have to sell a job well done. They focus on their work so after meetings they go to their office and catch up on lists that continually get longer and longer.
4) The Cantankerous One – Employee Engagement surveys tell us between 12 – 15% of the employee population is disengaged. What that means is about 12-15% of your employees enjoy being a rebel in the workplace. They use personalized attacks and jokes to disarm their co-workers. They slow down work and get meetings off track. Other employees don’t trust the cantankerous ones because they act in ways that are untrustworthy.
It’s bad enough that these habits kill their career but they also make for a toxic working relationship. From the best to the worst companies and everywhere in between, ambitious employees are struggling with how to gain the strength and insights to succeed in spite of bad bosses and disengaged co-workers. Working with these personalities can interfere with you getting your work done, keep you in a bad mood and in extreme cases cause you to become ill. If you don’t know how to manage your thinking then your body reacts with a rush of adrenaline and other stress hormones which become constant. When that happens our ability to focus, think creatively, and perform at our peak is impaired.
If you are working with someone who displays these behaviors here’s what you can do to keep them from sabotaging your day.
- Know your tendencies. Each of us react in patterns and for you to change the outcome you first need to understand how you habitually react.
- Set aside snap judgments. Every interaction teaches others how to respond to you. You can’t change your behavior if you haven’t separated the behavior from the person. Remind yourself it’s the behavior not the person that’s the problem.
- Learn to listen better. Listening isn’t just hearing; it requires the willingness to entertain another viewpoint. It is most difficult when it is an opposing viewpoint.
- Engage in small experiments – decide how you want to be treated. Practice in the mirror or with a trusted adviser how you can a conversation explaining what you want (not what you don’t want). No one wakes up in the morning as decides to sabotage their career. Everyone believes they are operating in their own best interest. But we live in a very polite society and many times we feel it is rude to tell someone about their unbecoming behaviors. But if you don’t then they won’t have an opportunity to change. Be clear why it’s worth them changing their viewpoint and behavior with you.
- Measure success over time. People rarely change immediately. But they will change over time especially when they understand you are mindful of their self interest. Suspending judgment, listening better and being clear on how you want to be treated demonstrates you are trustworthy. By being trustworthy people will change their behavior.
I’m known for my speeches and discussions that help everyone understand leadership is not a title but a way of being. CEO’s understand that to be a great company you need leaders at all levels and employees who are skilled at working with a variety of behaviors. Sitting on the sidelines complaining about the behaviors of disengaged employees is a waste of your time and energy. Learn how to work smarter by not let them make you work harder.
Try these 5 things and you’ll see a difference.