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9 bad work habits that will kill your promotion dreams

·5-min read
How many of these bad work traits are you guilty of? (Source: Getty)
How many of these bad work traits are you guilty of? (Source: Getty)

There are some work habits that won’t just reflect badly on you in the workplace – but could be so toxic that they backfire on your career ambitions, too.

So if you’re disorganised, don’t speak up enough, too focused on your job and even overworking, you had better curb these habits sooner rather than later.

“Most of us can name one or two bad habits that in an ideal world we’d change about ourselves, but when it comes to work, certain traits can actually hinder our career progression, putting promotions and pay rises at risk,” Indeed head of career insights Jay Munro said.

The basics

The most obvious workplace habits are gossiping and oversharing, but these can really end up coming back to bite you in the behind, the career expert warned.

“Being an office gossip or aiding the circulation of rumours about your colleagues can lead to an erosion of trust within your team and deflate morale,” Munro said.

Essentially, you’ll look good if the whole team looks good. “So keep your sights on your goals, such as a promotion or pay rise, and swap time spent gossiping for delivering productive work.”

Meanwhile, “spilling your guts” at work can lead others to see you as unprofessional. “Remember that when attending professional events with work colleagues your behaviour should reflect the level of formality and professional behaviour you’d show in the office.”

And if you know you’re less organised than you should be, this could mean lower productivity, missed deadlines and meetings, and make you look unreliable, Munro said.

So manage your time, plan and prioritise. “Making lists, using a time tracking app, scheduling work into your diary and setting aside short blocks of time for breaks and meetings are all helpful ways to keep yourself on track and organised at work.”

Some ‘good’ work habits aren’t what they seem

On the other end of the spectrum, there are some work habits you have that you might be proud of – like doing your job perfectly, and being a great lister – that are not all they seem.

This is because only doing your job strictly according to your job description doesn’t display initiative, said recruitment firm Robert Half director Nicole Gorton.

“To be eligible for a promotion, you’ll have to show you’re capable of taking on greater responsibility and new challenges,” she told Yahoo Finance. Don’t be afraid to raise your hands for new projects or projects outside your own field to demonstrate your willingness to go above and beyond, she added. This will help with meeting more people across the business, too.

Only listening in meetings may come across as not participating, Gorton said.

“It’s likely key decision-makers will consider your participation and performance in meetings and contribution to projects as part of their assessment of your suitability for a higher-ranking role.

“Meetings, project planning sessions and review periods are an ideal time to show others what you’re capable of. During these times, don’t be afraid to speak up, challenge processes and offer considered ideas and innovative solutions – all the leadership qualities that could get you recognised.”

Working too hard isn’t the answer

If you’re guilty of pulling crazy hours in the office, you might think you’re a hard worker – but this doesn’t necessarily mean higher output, said Hays Australia and New Zealand managing director Nick Deligiannis.

The lockdowns have seen remote working become a normal practice, but this may pressure workers into believing they need to pull longer hours.

“But this can not only negatively impact your mental health and wellbeing. It can also adversely impact your all-round productivity [and] lead to a drop in performance, which will ultimately hurt your chances of promotion at work,” he told Yahoo Finance.

Back yourself

Self-doubt and underconfidence were mentioned by both Munro and Deligiannis as harmful to your career progression.

Though we’re all human, self-confidence is actually a skill you can polish with practice and persistence, Deligiannis said.

“Having a good sense of self-confidence at work can prove to your employer that you are willing to step outside of your comfort zone and accept new challenges.”

Munro added that persistent disbelief in your own abilities may see workers shy away from taking on challenges or extra responsibilities that could put them in good stead.

In these moments, take a moment to recognise the thoughts before reframing them in a positive light, Munro said.

“Focus on what you’re good at and seek support and feedback from trusted colleagues. Shifting a mindset of self-doubt to one where you can celebrate failures as opportunities to learn will set you up for future success.”

Be about the big picture

Even if you’re excellent at your job, you might be missing the wood for the trees by having tunnel vision and failing to pull back and look at the overall company’s objectives.

“Aligning yourself and your tasks to the goals of the company and team are key to making a tangible difference,” said Robert Half’s Gorton.

“There are elements of not only performing well in your role and responsibilities but also adding value in other non-tangible areas of the business like team socials and driving team or company initiatives.”

And finally, not communicating your career aspirations to your manager will make your promotion goals that much more out of reach.

“If they are aware of exactly where you want your career to progress to, they can put you forward for relevant stretch opportunities, coaching and development,” said Deligiannis. “If your manager knows of your career goals, they are more likely to support you on the path you’re striving towards.”

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