Professional Development

10 Traits That Will Kill Your Career

Written by Peter Jones

You know the basic rules: don’t lie or cheat or embezzle from the company. But there are a few character flaws and personal patterns or habits that could also seriously hinder your progress—and even kill your career.

Most people don’t even realize they’re doing themselves or their careers harm until it’s far too late. And most careers aren’t impacted by one big mistake or one cringeworthy comment. It happens little by little, in ways you might not expect. So keep an eye out for these subtle traits and traps that could already be bringing you down.

1. Narcissism

If you’re just thinking about yourself and how you can succeed, that’s self-absorption in the highest. You’ll go farther in your career if you consider how to help the company get ahead—and the company is made of people. It’s not all about you. Focus on being a better team player. In a rising tide, all boats rise.

2. Dishonesty

It doesn’t have to be one big whopper to count as lying. In fact, it’s often the smaller fibs around the edges that create a pattern making for a person a boss would likely write off as “dishonest.” Cultivate honesty as a virtue and a character trait. Be tactful, but not obsequious. Have the courage to accept responsibility when things are your fault. And keep your mouth shut—don’t spread rumors about your coworkers or friends.

3. Making False Promises

You either over-promise or under-deliver, but either way, you’re falling short of expectations and failing to do what you said you’d accomplish. Set reasonable, achievable goals for yourself. Make promises only that you’re certain you can keep. That way, if you get more done faster, you can give your boss a pleasant surprise instead of having to underperform.

4. Complacency

Otherwise known as: laziness. When was the last time you learned a new skill or took a refresher or other training course? When was the last time you certified yourself in something new? Or really dug into industry research to keep yourself on the cutting edge? If you don’t grow, you won’t be challenged and you won’t change. And you’ll never get ahead.

5. Pessimism

Nobody likes a Debbie Downer. If you find yourself focusing more on the negative side of everything, don’t be surprised when no one wants to work with you—and your boss doesn’t particularly want to see you succeed.

6. Apathy

Even worse than being negative or pessimistic is being apathetic. If you can’t bring yourself to care one way or the other, how can you expect anyone to trust you or want to work with you? Even if you hate your job, give it your best and move on. Otherwise you’ll be stuck, you’ll get a bad reputation, and you’ll never get ahead.

7. Fear of change

Keep your eye on the prize, the big picture. Weigh your daily and monthly priorities against your long-term goals. And don’t be afraid of changes in your company or industry. Learn to be adaptable. Roll with the tides. Don’t ever hear yourself saying, “But we’ve always done it this way.” Learn to grow and adapt as things progress—and keep your biggest dreams in the back of your mind at all times. Be flexible. Embrace the ever-changing nature of the working world.

8. Ego

You get a little success, it goes to your head, and all of a sudden you’re the star of every show. You’re arrogant. Full of yourself. Cocky. You’re doing nothing but setting yourself up for a rather painful failure.

9. Insecurity

Whether this manifests as meekness, arrogance, envy, pessimism, oversensitivity… it doesn’t matter. Do what you have to do to be more confident in your own abilities and career position. Go to therapy. This trait makes a negative impact across all areas of your life—not just your job. And it’s not a good enough excuse for the behavior it tends to cause.

10. Sucking up

Nobody likes a brown-noser. You’re not showing real respect or building a relationship; you’re a big phony going about things the underhanded way. Earn your boss’s respect the honest way. Prove your merit. Help your team. Show don’t tell.

Once you’ve got all of this down, the next step is to make sure you don’t let any of your biases impact your decisions. In order to effectively develop your career, it’s important to admit you have biases and learn to correct them. The more objective you are, the better your decisions will be.

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About the author

Peter Jones

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