Are You Sabotaging Your Career? 5 Behaviors You Need to Avoid

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Your job is a huge part of your life.

If you work a typical 40-hour work week, that's around 2000 hours a year spent on the job. You spend more waking time working than you do with your spouse, partner, children, or friends.

Hopefully, your job is more than a job. Hopefully, it is your profession, your calling, your passion. But even if your current job is just your career for now, you don't want to unknowingly sabotage it and undermine your opportunities for success.

According to Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology at Claremont McKenna College, in an article for Psychology Today,  here are five behaviors that could derail you on your career path:

1. Poor Interpersonal Style. Although technical competence and successes may initially pay off, as one moves up in an organization or profession, interpersonal skills become more important. In our study of firefighters, technical competence was the key to getting promoted to captain, but lack of social skills prevented captains from going higher in the chain of command.


Having an abrasive or arrogant style, being insensitive to those around you, or coming off cold and aloof can lead to derailment of managers and supervisors.

2. Over-Controlling and Inability to Delegate. In today's team-centered work world, it is critical to be able to work successfully with others to get the job done. Managers who try to do it all themselves, who micromanage, or who are unable to build a team, are likely doomed to failure.

3. Inability to Adapt. Change is the only constant in organizations. Workers who fail to adapt will become obsolete and fail. In one engineering department, the manager was unable to master, or even understand, the new design technology. Due to his own insecurity, he refused to let the new technology be used in his department. The result: they fell further and further behind on projects and produced inferior results.

4. Lack of Transparency. Dealing openly and honestly with those you work with is the key to success. Even if you are justified and fair in the decisions that you make, you need to let people know why and how important decisions (such as promotions) are made.

It goes without saying that unethical behavior is a key de-railer for anyone's work career, so the best way to avoid temptation is to be transparent in the decisions you make and strive to be virtuous in your behavior.

5. Inability to Think Strategically. All too often, we get bogged down in the day-to-day work that is in front of us, and focus too much on short-term goals. However, career success requires constantly looking at the big picture, and thinking strategically about where we are headed. Strategic thinking helps us anticipate problems, recognize new opportunities, and build a track record of accomplishments.


If you see yourself in any of the behaviors listed above, it's not too late to get back on track and start honing your emotional intelligence and management skills. In fact, you can assess your level of emotional intelligence by taking a ffree assessment here. And you can test your management skills with this assessment.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 13 comments
Doctor Cris

Teaming with people on the job is so important. I call it teaming because you need each other to be successful and meet your goals as well as your team’s goals. Each person is unique on how they communicate and learn — not everyone is alike — so being patient and open, really helps in building trust and support on the job. Great article Barrie.

    Barrie Davenport

    Hi Cris,
    I love that word — “teaming.” It not only reflects the idea of working in a team but also suggests the word “teeming” — like teeming with ideas, creativity, support. Thank you for sharing that!

Rose Byrd

Alex, I have found that these 5 steps are even more important when working free-lance and managing your own PR, contracts, etc. Good interpersonal skills, especially with online dialogue and eletronic communications; flexibility ( a LOT of flexibility); and extremely clever, honest strategies are essentail to give one’s creative talents a fair shot out in the world at large.

    Barrie Davenport

    Wonderful points Rose. Interpersonal skills and flexibility can go a long way in creating success in your career. Some of the best and brightest can be bypassed because they just can’t get along with people.

Andy Bowker

Interesting post .. I am a bit different, as a very sensitive person with a low tolerance level of stressful situations, plus having had a lack of social skills in the past, means that I’m still doing a fairly basic job in my later thirties. I don’t want to be a manager and the 9 to 5 world doesn’t suit me really .. in some ways I wish I was cut out for working my way up .. it can make me feel bad when I see so many spiritual/self help people that have had far more successful careers than I have even before they branched out into doing something different.

    Barrie Davenport

    Hi Andy,
    Even though you prefer low stress situations and non-management jobs, you can still work your way up. You don’t have to be in a job that requires a lot of daily interaction. But you can also stretch yourself some to step out of your comfort zone. You might find that you are capable of more than you thought!


Hi Barrie,

I believe a lot of people would unknowingly incorporate at least one of these behaviours into their lives – if a job isn’t as great as we had hoped it to be, it’s our brain’s natural reaction to reject it. This means that we don’t give our all to the job, and it begins to show in our work ethics and our attitudes. Unfortunately, this can spiral to the point of disciplinary action.

Instead, it’s always healthy to look at the positives of a job, even if they are outweighed by the negative. Focus on what we like about the work, and why we applied for that role in the first place. Perhaps it’s the good nature of our colleagues, or the variety of our work? There’s usually something that will attract us, however small.

If there truly isn’t anything likeable about the job though, then perhaps it’s time to start thinking about a career transition into something more suited. More people are trying this transition, and so more people are becoming satisfied with their work 🙂

    Barrie Davenport

    You are so right Stuart. After the “honeymoon” phase of a job, it’s easy to start focusing on the problems rather than the good things. That’s true in relationships too, isn’t it? Sometimes just a perspective shift can make all the difference. There is good and bad in everything, and even that bad isn’t always as bad as our perceptions tell us. It’s good to really inquire about the reality of the situation.

Roshawn @ Watson Inc

That was such an interesting observation regarding about the changing importance of interpersonal skills. I never really thought of it that way, but yes I can definitely vouch that people with poor interpersonal skills make horrible coworkers and even worse bosses. It is amazing what people will do for you if you know how to relate properly to them. Great post!

    Barrie Davenport

    Absolutely Roshawn. That’s why I believe having a high Emotional Intelligence quotia is a great indicator of a successful career.


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