8 Not-So-Obvious Ways You’re Undermining Your Reputation At Work

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Taylor Tobin1.84k
April 19, 2024 at 5:36PM UTC

In an ideal world, we’d all present the best-case-scenario version of ourselves at work: the most responsible, the most self-assured, the most productive. But in reality, we need to balance demanding workloads, challenging coworkers and bosses, high-maintenance clients, overly-intense office air conditioning...the list continues. Sometimes, these numerous stresses can lead us to adopt tendencies that ultimately hamper our ability to grow within our roles and to set ourselves up for advancement and promotions. If you’re wondering whether you subconsciously undermine yourself at work, keep an eye out for these 8 behaviors:

1. You’re not proactive about seeking feedback or opportunities.

While you’re certainly not alone if you decide to wait until official review periods to get feedback from your manager, it’s to your benefit to have these conversations on a more regular basis. Your manager should take the initiative to talk to you about your performance, but if she doesn’t, don’t hesitate to ask for a meeting to get a sense of where you stand, how you can improve, and what projects could be on the horizon that are a fit for your skills.

2. You make promises that you can’t/don’t keep.

Do you regularly agree to take on extra work even when you don’t have the bandwidth? Do you often sign off on deadlines, only to find that they elapse before you’re prepared? Your intentions may be good in these situations; you want to help your coworkers and complete assignments to the best of your ability, but by saying yes to situations without really thinking them through and finding yourself unable to deliver, you’re compromising the trust that your colleagues and supervisors have in you and potentially limiting your growth potential.

3. You speak before you listen.

Of course, you should feel empowered as an important and skilled employee to speak up in meetings if you have ideas or thoughts on the discussion topics. However, if you’re talking over coworkers to get your point across and aren’t actively listening to the input of your colleagues, then you’re not positioning yourself as a strong collaborator, which can be an dealbreaker when your company’s higher-ups start looking for candidates for leadership roles. 

4. You try to be everyone’s friend.

It’s healthy and beneficial to maintain positive relationships with your colleagues, and developing off-the-clock friendships with the folks in your cubicle bank can be a wonderful side effect of the 9-to-5 life. But if being everyone’s friend becomes your primary goal in the workplace, it can get in the way of your professional progress. 

5. You consistently arrive at meetings a little bit late.

Perhaps you work in an office where arriving 5-10 minutes late on a daily basis isn’t a big deal. However, if you’re extending that flexibility to scheduled meetings and walking in several minutes late on a regular basis, then you can bet that it’s being noticed...and usually not in a positive manner.

6. You’re unaware of your tone of voice and your facial expressions.

Critiques about vocal tone, facial expressions, and gestures/posture often feel highly gendered, and it’s absolutely correct that your physical appearance shouldn’t be a determining factor when it comes to project assignments and career advancement. That said, human beings do communicate through spoken words and visual expressions, and if you’re spending meetings rolling your eyes at your colleagues and responding to ideas with dismissive or mocking vocal cadences, then those choices will inform your reputation and influence your relationships with the people in your department.

7. You’re extremely hard on yourself when you make mistakes.

When you make a mistake at work, it’s wise to consider the factors that led to the error and to devise a plan for avoiding similar pratfalls in the future. But don’t spend time beating yourself up and allowing your mistake to influence your self-confidence; that could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

8. You allow yourself to fall into unproductive habits.

Especially if you’ve worked at the same company for a significant period of time, you may find yourself defaulting to ingrained habits where basic job duties are concerned. In that case, it’s helpful to reevaluate your processes from time to time, to eliminate redundancies, and to replace unproductive habits (like waiting hours to reply to quick emails or eschewing your file cabinet in favor of dumping your documents in a disorderly pile) with more efficient and effective alternatives. 


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