How to Sabotage Your Success

November 30, 2015

How to Sabotage Your Success

What is success? For some, it’s a feeling you get when you’ve done the best you can and you feel good about the outcome. For others, it’s something tangible, materialistic, or concrete like a bigger house, better car, or grander vacations. No matter how you define success, it’s an all-around great feeling we all strive to have.

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, things get in the way of our success. Occasionally we sabotage our own success when our bad habits overtake our best of intentions. Here are some of the most common bad habits that irk others and keep you from being successful.

You Have Poor Communication and Burn Irreplaceable Bridges

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” We probably all learned that rule as a child, but it also applies to adults — just in a slightly different way.

When addressing a co-worker, vendor, or client, it’s important to express concerns and issues in a constructive way. You must be respectful and speak with clarity, but firm in your convictions. If you speak with confidence and kindness, people are more likely to understand and respect your point of view.

If you can’t communicate without being rude, superior, or condescending, you run the risk of burning irreplaceable bridges that can help you be successful in your career or business. Think of it like this: would you want to do business with you? If the answer is ‘no,’ step back, evaluate why, and make adjustments. If you wouldn’t do business with yourself, others will question why they are.

You Won’t Let Anyone Get a Word In

Picture of a Business Woman Taking Notes

Along the same line of communication, it’s important to actively listen when speaking with others. If you find yourself interrupting the other party, you might miss their point of view. It’s disrespectful, and they might have something valuable to contribute to the conversation.

If you’re worried about addressing the other party’s points, try carrying a small notebook to jot down notes or trigger words during the discussion. Then, when it’s your turn to speak, you can reference these notes without interrupting the other party.

When all else fails and you must interrupt, do so politely and apologize. But don’t make that a habit, or it’ll become insincere.

You Badmouth Others

Getting involved in office gossip is self-fulfilling, and will have zero benefits for you (other than the personal satisfaction of being “in the know”). The problem is, more often than not, a co-worker is being badmouthed. And, as all office gossip goes, it usually gets back to that person.

Badmouthing will get you nowhere, and will often make others wonder what you say about them behind their back. Sure, it will give you some temporary Machiavellian social authority, but it often results in a manipulative or intimidating work environment. I’m not sure about you, but I don’t want to work with someone like that.

You Don’t Set Boundaries

To be successful, you have to determine what projects and actions are going to aid in your success, and which ones won’t.

It’s easy to say “Yes, I can help.” It shows a willingness to help and proves you’re an active member of a team. Conversely, if you’re already overwhelmed with projects, or you’re too willing to take on anything that doesn’t help you get closer to your goals, you need to learn to say ‘no’.

It’s important to set boundaries for yourself, personally and professionally. There are certain things we must do daily for our family, our careers, obligations, church, friends, etc. But, there’s a fair amount that is negotiable, too.

For instance, you can be invested in the success of your church through active membership, but you don’t need to be the one overseeing the kids’ choir, church newsletter, and community outreach, unless you want to be. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive for big, scary new opportunities. Be aware of which ones help you pave your way to success, and which ones are simply a fork in the road.

Your Perception Is Reality

Image of Two People Showing how Perspective can Change Reality

Very early in my career I was told that “perception is reality.” The perception of my performance is reflective of my contributions to my team and therefore, is reality.

Seeing how others perceive you is important to your overall growth and development, aiding you in getting one step closer to success. To get those perceptions, you’ll need to be open to giving and receiving feedback. Without feedback, how do you know what skills you need to hone and what skills you’ve mastered?

Get familiar, even if it’s uncomfortable, with asserting yourself. In time, it will become second nature. And remember, feedback is meant to make you aware of the good, bad, and ugly. It’s not meant to shame you or make you uncomfortable, but rather to make you more aware of positive or negative attributes.

You’re Grammar Is Poor

See what I did there?

Grammar is the crux of basic communication, and poor grammar can make you look foolish or less educated. Spelling errors on your website can lead to credibility concerns, and tweeting the wrong word can cause a lot of speculation (personal and personnel have very different meanings).

When in doubt, check it out! Grammar tools like Grammarly or the Hemingway Editor will not only help you improve your grammar, but will tell you why it needed attention. When your grammar is correct, your message shines through and leaves an impact, with clarity.

Are you sabotaging your success with your words or actions? It’s not too late to take a step back, assess what needs to change, and re-engage with those around you. They might question your intentions at first, but ultimately will welcome the changes you’ve made.


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