Career limiting moves

I usually write about the positive stuff. The stuff to help you with your career. The stuff to make it better, more fruitful, more satisfying.

Today that is not the case. Today I received an email that one male employee had forwarded to many other employees and customers which contained photos of naked women in poses and situations which would be considered demeaning. I’m definitely not a prude and on one hand this stuff is mostly harmless. On the other hand I wonder how much we have really progressed in organisations to attain equality of pay and positions for women when there is still this undercurrent of women being presented and treated as sexual objects and as comedic relief for men. Is this how they imagine the women that work with?

 Of course using our electronic systems to distribute this kind of content is prohibited. As most companies do, we have all sorts of policies which address this kind of stuff – from acceptable use of our IT systems to harassment and discrimination policies, and I’m now in the situation of dealing with a number of employees who are probably considered valuable members of their team, who may or may not keep their job.

 Distributing this information is definitely an obvious career limiting move. If you don’t lose your job over it, at the very least you will not be seen positively. Promotions and other opportunities may not come your way and you will definitely not be viewed in the best light. But what other things can limit your career? Here are my top 5 behaviours that have the potential to limit your career:
 1.       Not playing nicely with others.
I once worked with a manager who had an employee in his team who didn’t want to work with others. The days are gone where roles exist for employees to sit in a corner and work alone processing paperwork or number crunching. Today’s organisations are lean with a heavy focus on being able to communicate and collaborate. This employee refused to attend meetings, refused to share information with other team members and was generally a very difficult person to deal with. He was asked to continue his career somewhere else.

2.       Being difficult
I reckon I can get on and work with most people. It doesn’t mean I always like everyone but man, there is a person I have worked with who was so difficult that nearly every time I needed to speak to this person there would be a disagreement about what I was trying to achieve. I often just needed a short answer or a document review and this person was supposed to be a business partner and resource. At the very least an equal in supporting what the business required.

They turned out to be the opposite and other leaders in the business admitted that they left things to the last minute before having to talk to this person, and only then it was out of desperation. It was never pleasant dealing with this person. Ugh!

Having people who will support you in your organisation is important if you want to progress. The more senior you become the more important it is to be seen as credible and have sound influencing skills. Crucial skills in developing your career.
3.       Being too sensitive
We all have tough times at work. We are human and it’s kinda hard to check your emotions at the door. I don’t expect anyone to do this and it’s ok to cry at work BUT the person who continually gets upset or worked up about EVERYTHING does not make for a pleasant workplace. The person you have to tippy-toe around or the person that if you even look sideways at and they become upset or offended is very very difficult. These people also make giving feedback hard.  If others are afraid to give you feedback because you will burst into tears or will make a bullying complaint, well you may not have a fruitful career. You will be avoided at all costs. Just saying.
Most large companies have employee assistance programs (EAP) who offer free counseling if you are struggling to cope with life or GP’s (in Australia at least) can provide referrals to psychologists and counselors which initially can be funded through Medicare . Get some help. Most people just need some help with some coping strategies to get them back on track.

 4.       Being obnoxious
I have worked with a couple of people like this. I’m sure you know some too. These are the people who say inappropriate and offensive things at inappropriate moments. Sometimes it comes out work events with the additional of alcohol and sometimes it’s at Wednesday at 10.30am in the meeting about improving a business processes.

Other people that fall under this category are those who are so egotistical that they expect everyone to work the hours they do, and at the standard they do. Other’s become scared of these people and avoid them at all costs – it’s hard to progress in your career if no one wants to be near you, let alone work with you.
5.       Being defensive
At the risk of sounding slightly unstable, a few years ago I made friends with the voice in my head which tells me to shut up when I feel the need to defend. The problem with being defensive is that it comes from an emotional place. If you end up in an emotional space it can be hard to communicate clearly and get the best outcome you want. I’m ok with emotion (in fact emotion drives passion and engagement) but the trick is to use it for effect. To have control and use it wisely. If you have a tendency to always defend, you are not listening, not taking in information and not being effective.

When I first started in my corporate career I was definitely defensive. My Manager used to hold up his hand to say “stop”. Stop talking and stop defending. Now my little voice does that and it’s so effective. I’m now able to truly understand why someone may have an issue with me and not be emotional in my reaction. It means that I am in a place where I can ask questions, gain more clarify and get a better outcome. It also puts me in a place that if I need to explain my position I have control over what and how I’m saying it. I get to say my piece with a better chance that someone else will listen. I’d like to say I’m good at it all the time, but of course I’m not. But I’m really conscious of it.

There are many career limiting moves I can think of – many very obvious, but it’s the more subtle ones like the 5 outlined above which are more insidious and hard to identify, but will make the biggest difference in reaching your career goals if you can tackle them.

Lisa xx