One minute you’re hotfooting it past all comers on your scramble to the top of your career. The next you’ve been sidelined, demoted or shunted off the fast track, thanks to an epic blunder which sees colleagues, clients and competitors shaking their heads and wondering what you were thinking.
Besides doing something which sees your judgment called into question and found badly wanting, what other mistakes can derail your career in a major way? Executive Style shared seven career killers that are tough to come back from.
One minute you’re hotfooting it past all comers on your scramble to the top. The next you’ve been sidelined, demoted or shunted off the fast track, thanks to an epic blunder which sees colleagues, clients and competitors shaking their heads and wondering what you were thinking.
It’s a scenario federal Labor Party senator Sam Dastyari saw play out in public, in excruciatingly slow motion, earlier this month. After news he’d asked a Chinese business to pay a personal debt to the tune of $1670, the one-time wunderkind was eventually banished to the back bench.
Besides doing something which sees your judgment called into question and found badly wanting, what other mistakes can derail your career in a major way?
1. Playing politics
Office politics come standard with most white collar work but becoming a player can set you back seriously if you side with the wrong set, careers expert Edwin Trevor-Roberts warns.
“The problem is that, more often than not, you don’t know it’s the wrong team until it’s too late,” Trevor-Roberts says.
“Best to remain neutral and avoid politics altogether.”
2. Poor performance
Parting ways with a company due to lacklustre performance need not be an impediment to your snagging an equally good gig down the road – providing the episode is seen as a one- off. If it happens two or three times, expect to see opportunities to progress evaporate, workplace specialist Michelle Gibbings says.
“If you consistently have a reputation as a poor performer in the market, it gets known,” she says.
3. On the level
Don’t mind pulling a swifty or being elastic with the truth occasionally? All good until you’re found out. Dishonesty in any of its forms, from fraudulent or unlawful behaviour to communicating with others in ways that undermine trust, is not something to be known for if you hope to see your career soar, according to leadership expert Karen Gately.
4. Not my fault
Accepting responsibility for things that happen on your watch is part and parcel of moving up the food chain and that means copping brickbats as well as bouquets. Up-and-comers who don’t understand the requirement to do so risk derailing their careers, workplace psychologist Virginia Mansell says.
“There is often a certain immaturity that leads these executives to not admit to themselves that some of the responsibility for lower than expected results is theirs,” Mansell says. “It is hard to get other people to be accountable when you yourself don’t own up to your contribution to the problem.”
5. Loose lips
Knowing how to keep your own counsel is essential if you want to rise up the ranks and aspirants who earn a name for loose lips may find it puts the kybosh on their ambitions.
Even if the information they blab around town isn’t sensitive, the act of doing so reflects poorly on their judgment and ability to maintain confidentiality, Gately says.
6. Looking for love in all the wrong places
Spend 40+ hours a week in an office and chances are you’ll meet someone who catches your eye. But blurring the personal and professional can be fraught. There’s a high chance of significant career damage for one or both parties if an office affair isn’t handled with care, careers coach Sally-Anne Blanshard cautions.
“Secret meetings, that look you give each other … these do not go unnoticed by colleagues and you end up becoming the subject of gossip in many circles,” Blanshard says.
“Depending on the scenario, you may also be challenging the personal and professional work ethics or values of your colleagues and lose credibility and respect in the workplace … office affairs unravel and spiral out of control, impacting productivity and focus.”
7. Out of touch
Feel like your industry, or the role you once felt confident you understood, is changing way too fast? Fall behind at your peril, Trevor-Roberts warns – being seen as out-of-touch is the career version of a deadly disease and can be just as challenging to get over.
“As the world of work continues to accelerate, the failure to keep an eye on the external environment and understand what this means for you and your career is a sure fire way of becoming irrelevant,” Trevor-Roberts says.
“Staying abreast of changes and, critically, turning this awareness into action is a key career skill.”
Gone for good?
Think you’ve done a Dastyari and muddled your own career pitch? For those who can lay low and bide their time, all is unlikely to be lost, at least not forever, Gibbings says.
“People have relatively short memories,” she says.
“It depends how public the fall from grace was and also how they handled it – the contrition factor and also how they’ve managed their network through it…
“Wait long enough, people do come back …They’ll often go away, they’ll often go and work in a different sector, they’ll do something quieter that has less profile attached to it and then they will pop up somewhere else.”