In my 20s, I used to be scared to speak up in corporate meetings. I was afraid I’d ask a dumb question and look silly. So I held back. A lot. Even though I knew deep down my ideas were good, and that I could be making more of a contribution. But my ego stopped me because I didn’t want to feel vulnerable or exposed.
Does this sound like you? If so, you’re not alone. Self-sabotaging behavior is commonplace at work. But it doesn’t have to be, and even simple awareness of it helps. Here are five common career-crushing culprits to lose at the office.
1. Undersharing: How will people be aware of your smarts and savvy if you are silent? Not sharing your ideas is selfish too. That’s why people are hired in the first place — to be of service and value. If you are not adding value, you are taking up space. So don’t hold back! Better an average idea that falls flat than a genius suggestion that’s never voiced. Don’t be afraid to let your light shine!
2. Over-Apologizing: When you next need some advice, have some feedback, or have a question, don’t say, “Oh I’m sorry to bother you, Tom…” Just ask, “Hey Tom, I have a quick question, do you have a few minutes today?”
Over apologizing is weakening. It makes you feel small and affects how others see you too. You are allowed to ask questions, seek advice, and talk to your co-workers! Just make your requests with kindness and confidence. And if you make a mistake of any kind — share appreciation over an apology, if you can. Instead of saying, “I’m so sorry this report is a few minutes late!” say “Thanks for your patience in receiving this report!” People prefer to be thanked.
3. Over Delivering: Do you always go the extra mile? Great! But only if you do it out of joy. Many women make the mistake of taking on extra work, projects, and other people’s responsibilities out of obligation (or fear they will get in trouble or not be seen as helpful enough if they don’t). There is a big difference.
I used to work with someone who did all of her assistant’s work for him because she was desperate to be liked and thought over-delivering would help. It didn’t. It just meant Anna was the last person to leave the office almost every night, and she had a growing chip on her shoulder as every month passed.
You know if going that extra mile is positive or not by how you feel when you do it. It should feel energizing to you, not resentment-fueled.
4. Failing to Delegate: If someone can do a task 80 percent as well as you, let them. All successful leaders master delegation early (unlike my friend Anna). Let the “busy work” go. Focus on the next bigger thing. Let people help you.
5. Poor Presentation: This is two-fold: presentation and body language. People pay attention to appearance — ask any hiring manager during the interview process. Just because you have a secure job doesn’t mean you want to dress sloppily at work. People are visual animals and presentation matters. Throw on a blazer. Lose the hoodie. Iron your dress. Notice how people treat you differently as a result.
Power poses have been given much credence in recent years because they work. Notice yourself in your next meeting. Are you making yourself small because you feel small? Do you walk with your head down?
Stand up straight, lift that chin, and pull those shoulders back. Enjoy the instant emotional shift this gives you too. Not only will you project more confidence, but you’ll feel it too, as studies show we benefit from acting the way we want to feel.
And as Demi Lovato says, “What’s wrong with being confident?” The answer? Nothing. There’s everything right about it. Give yourself a break! And remember to pat yourself on the back on the regular. You’re doing great. Just let everyone else see that too.
What are your best tips for overcoming self-sabotaging behavior? Let us me know in the comments!