There is no exact science in career success, but there is little doubt that hard work, determination, focus and luck certainly play a large part.
However, many common tactics and practices in the workplace may harm career success.
Research has shown that some behaviours and actions that have previously been thought to be beneficial in the workplace could be detrimental to productivity and ultimately harmful to chances of career success.
It need not necessarily take a dramatic or mammoth mistake to ruin a career; a pattern of counterproductive behaviour could be a career killer.
Here are five of them.
#1 Focusing on the boss, not on your role
A common mistake, often made by employees who lack the necessary skills for their role, is to try to ingratiate themselves with the boss.
Commonly justified or explained away as merely people managing or navigating office politics, or even smart networking, this is incorrect if the purpose is to grovel, flatter, sweet talk or butter up the boss.
Of course, it is essential to build strong relationships with peers and those above you; collaboration enables effective working with all departments and executives, but ‘sucking-up to the boss’ is never acceptable or appropriate.
Trying to butter up the boss will not be appreciated by your colleagues or senior executives, and you will lose the respect of others.
Carry yourself with dignity in everything that you do, focus on building and maintaining collaborative relationships with your seniors, and you will be respected and appreciated.
Concentrate on what is required from you to carry out your role successfully, direct attention to how you can excel in your position, and this will naturally earn you admiration and recognition from those around you, including senior management.
#2 Working all the time as opposed to working on getting results
Hard work undoubtedly plays a vital role in success in the workplace.
Regardless as to what your chosen field may be, you will not rise to the top without putting in some hard work.
However, there is a difference between working a lot and working on getting results, the quality versus quantity argument.
It is common to see employees working well beyond 9-5 but with little actual impact on results.
In the modern age where everyone has mobile internet access and smartphones, we can take calls, access emails, check systems, and so forth wherever we are.
However, do these long hours make us more productive? Current research suggests not.
Working to excess is not healthy, and studies have shown that individuals working longer hours are more likely to have physical health problems such as heart attacks and also mental health problems.
Longer working hours can make an individual prone to stress and anxiety, which can hurt workplace performance, especially in stressful situations.
Working shorter hours is not necessarily an easy or lazy option, provided that the work is getting the required results.
Successful individuals utilise modern technology to communicate efficiently and effectively, which can reduce the number of hours spent trawling through countless emails and sitting through unproductive meetings.
Plan your time to ensure the work you are putting in is high quality and performance-driven rather than just simply putting in the long hours, and you can increase your chances of a healthy life as well as a productive and successful career.
#3 Becoming complacent
As always, life is about balance.
Having considered that working too much could be harmful to your health, productivity and career success, it is essential to remember that not working hard enough is sure to lead to career failure.
If you have worked hard, climbed your way up the career ladder and have been appreciated for your work, make sure you keep that strong work ethos.
By all means, allow yourself a moment of pride and pat yourself on the back, but don’t become complacent.
An employee who allows themselves to sit back and rest on their laurels with a smug sense of satisfaction will soon find they can slip back down that corporate ladder.
The job market is a competitive one, and there will always be someone, whether it be new starters keen to progress or peers seeking to advance, who will be ready to impress and outshine you.
Instead of relaxing, it is crucial to ensure you are continually focusing on how best to improve your skills, how to be more productive and efficient, and how to take advantage of new opportunities.
#4 Making promises you can’t deliver on
It can be tempting to make grand promises as to what you are hoping to achieve. Isn’t that the way to make an impression and wow your bosses?
Promising big things is not the wisest move and may end up harming your career if you fail to deliver.
Of course, it is essential to focus on what needs to be achieved and aim high.
There is nothing wrong with a positive and ambitious attitude, or with setting goals to achieve but think very carefully about exactly what you promise senior management.
Make sure that you can deliver on any promises you make; otherwise, you risk disappointing and frustrating those around you, creating a lasting negative impression as to your abilities and reliability.
Even if what you have managed to achieve would ordinarily be impressive, if you haven’t met the standard you promised, it could be seen to be underperformance.
Consider how objectives and goals are phrased and presented, look at real-time data and in-depth analysis to make the best possible decisions as to what can, realistically, be achieved.
Have long term goals and show how these can be strategically worked towards rather than simply making grand promises which may not be delivered upon.
#5 Failing to keep up with technology
There has been much research on the importance of keeping up with technology in modern business.
Being literate in the use of digital tools and having the ability to integrate new technologies into the workplace are traits required for a successful career.
Advances in technology are increasingly linked to improvements in business performance and businesses that embrace digital transformation are more successful than those that do not.
Therefore, it is vital to keep up to date with advances in technology and digital solutions.
Conversely, failing to keep up with advances in modern technology means you could soon be seen as obsolete as a new generation of workers who are up to date and enthusiastic about advanced technology begin to snap at your heels.
Ensure you embrace all available training opportunities and build collaborative relationships with peers in IT.
If you want to give yourself a good chance of career success, try to avoid:
- Focusing on the boss, not your role.
- Working all the time as opposed to working on getting results.
- Becoming complacent.
- Making promises you can’t deliver on.
- Failing to keep up with technology.
That way you’ll keep your career on an upward trajectory.