Don't Sabotage Your Career
Here are three ways women can be their own worst enemies at work.
By Cynthia “Cy” Wakeman
If work is a battlefield, some of the worst landmines we plant for ourselves. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Recognize the three behavioral patterns that can wreck your career:
Chronic Shock Syndrome (CSS)
Greeting every change with surprise, panic and blame.
Many women respond to change with great surprise – even changes that should be anticipated or at least considered in advance (such as budget cuts or a change in duties). The moment of surprise is followed by anxiety or even panic about how to react – and how the future of their careers will be affected. Some immediately blame others for lack of leadership, poor decisions or other failures rather than embracing the new opportunities. But especially if you’re a leader, CSS can make you too emotionally expensive to others in challenging times – and a loss to be cut.
Learn instead to be a lover of reality, greeting each new piece of information with a welcoming attitude. Conserve your precious energy used in the past to argue with reality and use it instead to innovate and problem-solve. Work to impact reality by quickly sizing up the new situation and moving on by asking yourself, “What is the next right action I could take that would add the most value to the situation?”
Bellyaching, moaning and whining.
Engaging in BMW driving when you are feeling stressed, unrecognized, misunderstood or unheard can be a slippery slope – especially when “dishing” on common workplace “enemies.” What begins as letting off a little steam – even if you’re just chiming in on a bitch session someone else started regarding company direction or managerial decisions – can quickly become a habit with nasty repercussions. Over time the team may begin to question your buy-in, alignment, and willingness to do whatever it takes to make the plan or decision workable. At the very least, BMW drivers squander valuable resources by critiquing rather than finding ways to implement with excellence.
This can be particularly dangerous territory for leaders, who should be calling the team to greatness in spite of challenges and focusing the energy of the team on making the best of a less-than-desirable situation. Expressing hesitation during planning is one thing. But if the decision has already been made and you can’t change it, make it work. Then you’re a credible authority on how to improve the plan in the future.
Even when you’re asked to implement decisions that you or your team think are poor, the highest level of value you can add comes from using your expertise to mitigate the risks of the decision and to implement with excellence. Value-added professionals give feedback and resist the urge to resist. You may be quick to offer your opinion because you still believe that the greatest value you can add is with your opinion regarding the “rightness” of the decision. But in today’s fast-paced workplace, the highest return on the investment of your expertise is in action, not opinion.
Thinking Outside the Box
Consistently ignoring the constraints of the moment for the company and always providing unrealistic thinking in problem-solving efforts.
Having been encouraged to “think outside the box” for years, you may have come to overuse this competency or use it at inappropriate times. Doing so will ensure that you come to be seen as looking for “pie in the sky” or out of touch with reality. The time for thinking outside the box is during strategic planning efforts or business process re-engineering efforts. Most of the solutions we are called upon to provide on a daily basis involve utilizing your defined resources (limited funding, a hiring freeze) to accomplish the goal at hand.
Cynthia “Cy” Wakeman is a dynamic keynote speaker, workshop facilitator and trainer who provides real solutions to individuals and organizations looking to re-create their mindsets so they can achieve amazing results.
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