Have you ever felt like real success was within reach at your job, but then you did something unintentionally to sabotage it?
Employees can often hurt their own careers because they fear “failing at success” when attempting to rise to the next level. They think, “How can I possibly handle that new level of responsibility without messing up?” And then a fear of failure becomes reality.
Saboteur thinking can plague you throughout your career or just happen in phases – and it happens to most everyone at some point. Either way, you can counter it by using sabotage blockers that help you realize you are indeed up to the task.
Signs of Career Self-Sabotage
There are some telltale signs that you may unknowingly be hurting your career. Missing deadlines, being overly modest, putting down others’ accomplishments, constantly working on overdrive, being overly perfectionistic, worrying too much about what others think, failing to follow through, refusing to admit mistakes, being resistant to change or suddenly withdrawing – are some of the red flags of self- sabotage at work.
If this sounds like you, it may be time to hit reset and take action to boost your self-esteem. With more enlightened self-awareness and greater appreciation of your talents, you can begin to see a pathway to a more rewarding work-life.
One well-documented example of this problem is the imposter syndrome, where you feel unworthy of success or like a fraud psychologically. You may stagnate in your job as a result, as it affects how you complete your work and interface with others. It was once thought of as only applicable to women, but that’s changed.
Oftentimes people don’t see themselves for who they really are – bright, intelligent and worthy of enjoying the fruits of their labor. They attribute accomplishments to good luck, or deflect an achievement with self-deprecating comments.
There’s nothing wrong with a little modesty; and sometimes that can be refreshing in a corporate environment! But we can also be fearful of making mistakes, and consequently avoid applying our most innovative thinking.
Try these tips to block self-sabotage at the office:
1) Solicit more feedback from your supervisors, clients and co-workers. During a meeting with your boss, ask for input, particularly if you’ve just completed a project. Get perspectives from clients and your team members, too. You may well be pleasantly surprised because, unfortunately, people are more likely to be more vocal when things go wrong. Often you have to solicit positive feedback.
2) Keep a "kudos" file from bosses and colleagues. These are handy reminders of your accomplishments for when you fall into the saboteur trap, especially when you need an added boost for a new endeavor. They’ll also come in handy should you decide to pursue a new job.
3) Keep tabs on your "to do" progress by crossing off what you've achieved. These days it’s easier than ever to keep a list on Google Tasks or through other apps on your wireless device or desktop. But rather just delete everything you’ve toiled away to complete over hours, days or months – consider putting a check next to them or listing them under a “Completed” list. This will remind you of your hard earned accomplishments, and that you’re not just spinning your wheels.
4) Ask your boss for more frequent evaluations. Don’t wait until your annual review to get a read on your work. Ask for feedback once a month or more often, depending on your circumstances. (Just don’t overdo it, or you may appear insecure.) Your interest in improving will likely be looked upon favorably by your manager.
5) Become more visible. By getting more involved with both business and social interactions at your company, you'll build camaraderie and self-confidence. You’ll see firsthand how your skills are appreciated. You may feel you’re a natural introvert, but as poet John Donne once said, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent...” – we do not thrive when isolated.
For example, even by offering an informal mentorship to a more junior employee, you’ll feel the unique reward of giving back – but you’ll also realize just how far you’ve come in your career.
Don’t Lean Too Far the Other Way
You can also sabotage your career by appearing over-confident to compensate for underlying low self-esteem – that is, slipping into what I call a Terrible Office Tyrant or “TOT” behavior. Inadvertently alienating your boss or co-workers can swiftly derail an otherwise great work opportunity.
If you like your job and want to advance, but feel like you’re sometimes your own worst enemy, take a step back. There’s only one thing that can sabotage anyone from achieving greatness – and conversely catapult anyone to the top. Ourselves.