A few days ago we had to fire someone. Of course, this is never a pleasant or easy task, but it is particularly difficult when you have to terminate an employee that had great potential, but ultimately chose to implode their own career. It got me thinking about how many otherwise talented employees I have had over the years that insisted upon being their own worst enemy. Despite repeated warnings, they persisted in what was often silly workplace behavior that sometimes ended their careers for all the wrong reasons. Here are a few surefire ways to really screw up your career:
1. Allow your personal problems to dominate your work performance. Sure – we all go though ups and downs, and sometimes our work will suffer as a result. But some individuals seem to think it is the company’s never-ending responsibility to support them through constant depressions, addictions, trials, and tribulations. It isn’t. The company owes you reasonable understanding and time off to deal with personal issues – but your problems do not belong to the company – and you need to deal with them outside of the workplace. Here’s another hint – we can all hear that angry call you are having with your ex – or your kid – or your landlord – and it isn’t improving anyone’s work performance.
2. Date your co–workers. OK – I know – we work hard and it is just natural to end up dating people we work with. And I admit that I have done it. In fact, I met my wife in the industry. But go into it forewarned – it can be career suicide. I’ve seen it play out badly a few different ways. Of course, there is the constant threat of sexual harassment suits that can bring down on the company. Getting the company involved in a million dollar suit because you had one too many martinis with the receptionist seldom leads to a promotion. But perhaps more common is the turbulence it causes in the organization when you break-up. Perhaps you are depressed and can’t work – or they are angry and set your desk on fire – but either scenario is not good. And even when you get along it can be bad for the organization. I had a situation last year with two dating employees showing favoritism to each other that disrupted their entire department.
3. Don’t give notice when you leave. Here is a real personal pet peeve of mine. I understand if you get a great new job and need to leave, I even understand if you really hate your job and decide it is time to move on. But unless you have been working in a horrible abusive sweatshop – you owe the company and your co-workers at least two weeks notice before you leave. (Actually, even if you do work in a sweatshop you will be the bigger person if you give notice.) Of course the company may prefer that you leave right away when you give notice (and they should compensate you accordingly), but an employee that just takes off puts the company and their co-workers in a lurch. And it is a particularly stupid move – as it assures you can never use that job as a reference.
4. Allow your spouse / loved one / best friend to determine your work attitude and / or negotiate on your behalf. Many years ago one of my employees had their wife come in to attempt to negotiate a raise. It did not go well for either of them. Every now and then, a spouse will approach me in the office or at a company function – and attempt to negotiate or push for a promotion for their husband or wife. Always a bad idea! And perhaps most commonly, I will run into situations where turbulence is obviously being created not by the employee – but by someone influencing them. I have had situations where otherwise happy employees were convinced they were miserable by a new spouse or friend – and their performance plummets. Fight your own battles – only you really know how you feel about your job.