How to Identify and Avoid Negative Behaviors That Will Stall Your Career

As a boss, it’s always thrilling to watch an employee grow in confidence, skill and professionalism. And, when you’ve had a part in that growth, it is the best feeling. Sometimes the best thing you can do is help employees identify the negative behaviors that are holding them back from achieving more. You know what they say: The first step to recovery is recognizing that you have a problem.

Yet, when it comes to self-sabotaging negative behaviors, many people believe they want to do something, but their actions say 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 negative behaviors:


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.

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, if you were 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.

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. Hopefully you have a good enough relationship with your boss to ask him or her for help. And … hopefully, the two of you can work on it together to smooth out the behaviors that are holding you back, professionally.

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