Five Signs You're Sabotaging Yourself at Work

Updated on January 12, 2018
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Sally is a business communications coach who gives workshops on how to keep your professional reputation squeaky clean and drama-free.

Are you standing in your own way at work? Here are five signs that you could be doing things that hold you back from being promoted and taking on important leadership roles.

Do you want to be a leader at work? Effective leadership is a skill that anyone can master by treating people well, acting in good faith and working alongside, not over, team members. If you’ve made up your mind that you want to improve your leadership potential at work, ask yourself if you are doing any of these five things that could be harming your credibility.

Good leaders know that there is always room at the top for others.
Good leaders know that there is always room at the top for others.

Be nice to people on your way up because you'll meet them on your way down.

— Wilson Mizner

An effective leader is:

  • assertive, but not aggressive
  • kind, but not permissive
  • bold, but not a bully
  • humble, but never meek
  • proud, but not obnoxious
  • never afraid to laugh at herself.

If you're in charge of leading a team at work, but you aren't having any success getting people to follow directions, you may need to look at what you're doing to diminish your leadership potential. Set your sights on becoming the best leader you can be with these practical tips.

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.

— Peter F. Drucker

1. Allowing office gossip to flourish (Or worse, being a source of gossip yourself): Your staff look to you to create and maintain a safe workplace. In fact, you're legally obligated to practice due diligence in averting bullying and workplace harassment. Gossip is one of the cruelest and most insidious forms of bullying. To be an effective leader, you must establish zero tolerance policies for office gossip and make sure that people are aware of the consequences associated with policy violations.

2. Ignoring established ground rules for a meeting: If your staff team has put together a set of ground rules for how meetings will be conducted to ensure everyone feels heard, you need to respect those ground rules, too. If someone were to send text messages or answer cell phone calls while you were addressing the team, surely you would feel undermined and dismissed. Don’t do the same to your staff. Don’t act like your messages are far more important than those of your subordinates. Show up to meetings on time. Look alert, express interest, be sincere – basic golden rule kind of stuff.

Being a respected leader means being courteous during meetings and paying attention while others are talking. Put away your distracting gadgets.
Being a respected leader means being courteous during meetings and paying attention while others are talking. Put away your distracting gadgets.


3. Disrespecting and mocking staff in front of guests, visitors and outsiders:While you may believe that you're just joking around by teasing employees in front of outsiders, your guests don’t always know that. And your employees shouldn’t have to be the butt of a joke in order to lighten the mood around a visitor. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to cut humor and laughter out of your leadership style. In fact, managers who promote healthy humor in the workplace are actually seen as having valuable leadership skills.

4. Arbitrarily handing out resources and rewards (i.e.; food, supplies, benefits, time off, vacations, access to training opportunities): Fairness and equality are values that people are taught to hold onto tightly from a young age. People know intuitively when they're not being treated fairly and it can undo any enthusiasm they have for contributing to the growth of the team.

5. Passing the hot potato: If you consistently delegate the worst tasks out to your subordinates, you’ll soon lose their respect. Part of being an effective leader is modelling the behavior that you expect from your staff. If doing grunt work is something that is seen as beneath you, how can you possibly inspire others to get enthusiastic about even the most mundane tasks?

Leadership isn't about being the top dog. True leadership is a special blend of confidence, self-awareness, gratitude, and humility.

Don’t be your own worst enemy. Pay attention to how you handle yourself at work and stop sabotaging your own career prospects. Set your sights on becoming the best leader you can be by avoiding the above five bad management habits. Take responsibility for developing your own leadership potential. Be the kind of leader that you would want to work with.

What qualities do you admire the most in a leader?

See results

© 2016 Sally Hayes

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