Behaviors that Will Ruin Your Career
Talent, skill, education, experience all are important.
But since no one does anything worthwhile on their own, treating other people
with courtesy and respect is a key ingredient in long-term professional
Yet heres how some people get that really, really wrong:
1. They thoughtlessly
waste other peoples time.
When you’re late to an appointment or meeting, what you’re
really saying is that your time is more important. When you wait until the
grocery clerk finishes ringing you up to search for your debit card, you’re
really saying you can’t care less if others have to wait.
Every time you take three minutes to fill your oversize
water bottle while a line stacks up behind you, you’re really saying you live
in your own little world… and your world is the only world that matters.
Small, irritating things, but basically no big deal? Nope.
People who dont notice the small ways they inconvenience others tend to be
oblivious when they do it in major ways.
How you treat people when it doesnt really matter –
especially when youre a leader says a lot about you. Behave as if the
people around you have more urgent needs than yours and you will never go
wrong… and you will definitely be liked.
2. They ignore people
outside their "level."
Theres an older guy at the gym that weigh over 300 pounds
and understandably struggles on the aerobic and weight equipment. (Hats off to
him; hes trying.)
Yet nobody talks to him. Or even seems to notice him. Its
like hes invisible.
Why? He doesnt fit in.
Occasionally we all do it. When we visit a company we talk
to the people were supposed to talk to. When we attend a civic event we talk
to the people were supposed to talk to. Or breeze right by the technicians and
talk to the guy who booked us to speak, even though the techs are the ones who
make us look and sound good onstage. (Or maybe that fortunately used to
just be me.)
Heres an easy rule of thumb: nod whenever you make eye
contact. Or smile. Or (gasp!) even say hi. Just act like people exist.
Well automatically like you for it and we’ll remember
you as someone who engages even when theres nothing in it for you.
3. They ask for way
A guy you dont know asks you for a favor; a big,
time-consuming favor. You politely decline. He asks again. You decline again.
Then he whips out the Need Card: "But its really important to me. You
have to. I really need [it]."
Maybe we do, in fact, really need [it]. But our needs are
our problems. The world doesnt owe us anything. We arent entitled to advice
or mentoring or success. The only thing we’re entitled to is what we earn.
People tend to help people who first help themselves. People
tend to help people who first help them.
And people definitely befriend people who look out for other
people first, because we all want more of those people in our lives.
4. They ignore people
in genuine need.
At the same time, some people arent in a position to help
themselves. They need a hand: a few dollars, some decent food, or a warm coat.
Though I dont necessarily believe in karma, I do believe
good things always come back to you in the form of feeling good about yourself.
And thats reason enough to help people who find themselves
on the downside of advantage.
5. They ask a
question so they can talk.
A guy at lunch asks, "Hey, do you think social-media
marketing is effective?"
"Well," you answer, "I think under the right
"Wrong," he interrupts. "Ive never seen a
return on investment. Ive never seen a bump in direct sales. Plus awareness
is not a measurable or even an important goal...." And he drones on while
you desperately try to escape.
Dont shoehorn in your opinions under false pretenses. Only
ask a question if you genuinely want to know the answer. And when you do speak
again, ask a follow-up question that helps you better understand the other
persons point of view.
People like people who are genuinely interested in other
people, not in themselves.
6. They pull a,
"Do you know who I am?"
OK, so maybe they dont take it to the Reese Witherspoon
level, but many people whip out some form of the "Im Too Important for
Maybe the line is too long. Or the service isnt
sufficiently "personal." Or they arent shown their
"deserved" level of respect.
Say you really are somebody. People always like you better
when you dont act like you know youre somebody or that you think it
entitles you to different treatment.
7. They dont know
when to dial it back.
An unusual personality is a lot of fun… until it isnt. Yet
when the going gets tough or a situation gets stressful, some people just cant
stop "expressing their individuality."
We know youre funny. We know youre quirky. We know you
march to the beat of your own drum. Still, theres a time to play and a time to
be serious, a time to be irreverent and a time to conform, a time to challenge
and a time to back off.
Knowing when the situation requires you to stop justifying
your words or actions with an unspoken, "Hey, thats just me being
me," is the difference between being likeable and being an ass.
8. They mistake
self-deprecation for permission.
You know how its OK when you make fun of certain things
about yourself… but not for other people to make fun of you for those same
things? Like receding hairlines, or weight, or your spouse and kids, or a
Its OK when you poke a little gentle fun at yourself, but
the last thing you want to hear are bald or money or, "Do you want fries
with that?" jokes. (Bottom line: I can say Im fat. You cant.)
Sometimes self-deprecation is genuine, but its often a mask
for insecurity. Never assume a person who makes fun of himself is giving you
permission to poke the same fun at him.
Only tease when you know it will be taken in the right
spirit. Otherwise, if you feel the need to be funny, make fun of yourself.
9. They humblebrag.
Humblebragging is a form of bragging that tries to cover the
brag with a veneer of humility so you can brag without appearing to brag. (Key
word is "appearing," because its still easy to tell humblebraggers
are quite tickled with themselves.)
For example, heres a tweeted humblebrag from actor Stephen
Fry: "Oh dear. Dont know what to do at the airport. Huge crowd, but Ill
miss my plane if I stop and do photos... oh dear dont want to
No one wants to hear how stressed you are about your upcoming
TED Talk. No one wants to hear how hard it is to maintain two homes. Before you
brag humbly or not, business or personal think about your audience. A gal
who is a size 14 doesnt want to hear you complain that normally youre a size
2 but youre a size 4 in Prada because Prada sizes run large.
Or better yet, dont brag at all. Just be proud of what
youve accomplished. Let others brag for you.
If youve done cool things, they will.
10. They push their
You know things. Cool things. Great things.
Awesome. But only share them in the right settings. If
youre a mentor, share away. If youre a coach or a leader, share away. If
youre the guy who just started a paleo diet… please dont tell us all what to
order – unless we ask.