How to Avoid Behaviors That Limit Professional Advancement

You know what they say: The first step to recovery is recognizing that you have a problem. Yet when it comes to self-sabotaging behaviors, many people think they want something, but their behavior says otherwise. If you can’t seem to move up the ladder, seemingly no matter how hard you try, it’s time to step back and take an honest self-assessment.

Each of us is bound by the limits we impose upon ourselves. These limits are learned over the years and they establish a comfort zone in which we are relatively happy and successful. While “relatively happy and successful” is all well and good, comfort zones limit you from achieving your full potential — from getting to “really happy and successful.”

Is your comfort zone holding you back? Are you self-sabotaging because, deep down, you don’t really believe you will succeed if you move outside your comfort zone? Let’s look at some common self-sabotaging behaviors.

1. Procrastination
This involves any type of avoidance technique, no matter how small. If you are chronically late — even by just a few minutes — or if you play computer games or do personal tasks on work time, you are procrastinating by avoiding the work tasks at hand. Others notice procrastination, and often others are affected by it, which can damage your image when it comes to professional advancement.

2. Fear of Success/Fear of Failure/Fear of Confrontation
Fear is learned in childhood, but the emotional reaction is so vivid that we carry it into adulthood — even though our logical brain knows that the fear can be overcome.

A fear of confrontation will keep you from advancing, as others will see you letting co-workers and managers walk all over you. Soon everyone will know that you won’t stand up for your rights, and they will infer that you wouldn’t stand up for theirs, either, were you their boss.

A fear of success keeps many from advancing, because they don’t know what it feels like to succeed — how they will handle it and maintain it if it happens. Instead, they hold themselves back so that they never need to find out.

Likewise, a fear of failure holds people back, too. Even though you might logically know that you have the skills to do the job, there is a nagging voice in your head — most likely left over from childhood — that tells you that you are going to mess everything up and leave the company in ruins.


3. Poor Communication Skills
Communication skills are the most-often-cited job skills that CEOs look for in their executives and managers. Study after study shows that if you are not a good communicator, you will not be a good leader. Consider these poor communication skills and the images they convey.
• Talking too fast
• Talking too slowly
• Giving too much detail instead of getting to the point (lack of conciseness)
• Weak speaking voice
• Poor nonverbal skills (lack of eye contact, body language not matching message, etc.)
• Nervous gestures and habits
• Poor posture
• Weak listening skills
• Inability to put others at ease
• No apparent sense of humor

Do any of the above describe your communication habits? If so, they might be holding you back.

4. Judgmental Language
If you are judgmental of others – complaining about them to others behind their backs, or even to their faces – you will soon get a reputation for not being a team player.

Another form of judgmental language to avoid is that of being too self-critical. A bit of self-deprecating humor here and there is fine, but dwelling on your inadequacies will merely pound into people’s heads that you are not worthy of your current position, let alone a promotion.

Identify what you really want and what it will take to get there. Figure out where you will have to venture outside your comfort zone to reach your goals and whether you are really willing to be uncomfortable. Determine what is making you procrastinate. Identify your fears and establish a logical plan for overcoming them. And figure out what communication skills you might

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