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Seven Deadly Workplace Sins
October 2010

Most of us are familiar with the seven deadly sins: envy, lust, greed, etc. This post suggests seven workplace sins that can damage your career.

  1. Gossiping: There's a big difference between staying in the loop and gossiping. Staying in the loop means you keep your eyes and ears open for information about what's going on in the organization, your department or team. Your focus is on relevant information. Gossiping is malicious in nature, typically focused on irrelevant details about a particular person or persons. Initially it may be fun to join in, but in the long run it could damage your credibility.


  2. Anti-social behavior: On the other end of the spectrum, being anti-social can have a negative impact on your career. If your idea of interacting with your co-workers is saying hello and goodbye – it's time to expand your level of contact. While making friends at work may not be a top career goal, having friends and being liked are a good foundation for making your career goals happen.


  3. Sloppy work: Do you consistently turn in projects late? Do you take "shortcuts" that impact the quality of your work? Or maybe you never take the time to double-check your work which results in costly mistakes. Even one episode of sloppiness is enough to ruin your reputation with your boss or your team. One sure way to alienate your co-workers and ruin your chances for promotion is to become known as a slacker. Here are a few tips to improve the quality of your work:
    1. Slow down. If you need to, seek help on how to better manage your time.
    2. Get organized. Better organization of your physical space will not only save you time but give you the room to work more efficiently.
    3. Look into it. If you've noticed a decrease in the quality of your work over time, there may be an underlying reason. Spend some time reflecting on what's going on.

  4. Perfectionism: The opposite of sloppy work, requiring that everything be perfect, can also have a negative effect on your work. I personally know of a woman who was fired for taking too long to get things done because she was obsessed with having her work be "perfect." Perfectionism doesn't just impact you, causing you to overwork and rework unnecessarily, it can also make for tense interactions with your co-workers. What can you do if you're gripped by the perfectionist bug? Purposely aim for 90% instead of the 110% you normally work towards. Your productivity will increase, your stress decrease, and you might also be surprised that nobody notices a difference in the quality of your work.


  5. Doing it all: I guarantee you know at least on person who is the only person that does work at their job. To hear them tell it, no one else ever does anything. They have overwhelming responsibilities, which they barely get done because they always have to help someone else, or rush in at the last minute to fix everything. Sound familiar? Trying to do it all, without enlisting the right help or resources is tiring at best and ineffective at worst. It's expected to pitch in and to have to do more than your share occasionally, but if that has become your way of work, you may be treading dangerous waters. It might feel good to be "needed", but you could be putting yourself in a box – being the only one who can do your job can keep you from getting promoted to a new opportunity. If you are the Wonder Woman or Superman of your office, learn to delegate.


  6. Making it all about you: Showing off, constant bragging, putting down other people and their ideas, making your self the focal point of every conversation. There's a right and a wrong way to practice the art of self-promotion and the difference lies in the intent and the delivery. If your intent is to compare yourself to other people in a manner that makes them appear less than competent, that's a problem. Proper self-promotion, aims to help you stand out based on you and your qualities alone – it doesn't take anything away from anyone else. There is also an art to the timing of when you create an opportunity to promote yourself – it should never be at someone else's expense. The ultimate balance here is confidence laced with humility. If you have developed a reputation as someone who is overly focused on themselves, make a better effort to:
    • listen more and talk less
    • recognizing the contributions of others
    • offer genuine compliments
    • invite others to share their opinion.

  7. Procrastinating: In addition to adding a huge amount of stress to your workday, putting things off until the last minute opens the door for unnecessary drama and negative attention. There's a limit to how many times your fellow co-workers will jump in to bail you out at the 11th hour. And it will only be a matter of time before they turn a deaf ear to your complaints about deadlines and workload. If you've developed a habit of procrastinating then you might find your self passed over for highly visible projects and promotions. There are number of reasons that people procrastinate: fear or failure, fear of success, and not knowing where to start for example. The best way to break free from procrastination is to do some honest reflection around the reason you are not moving forward.

There are two common threads among these seven workplace sins: 1) they can sabotage your career and 2) you can fix them. Is there one sin that's causing you more problems than the others? Start there. To increase your chances of turning things around work with a coach or accountability partner for honest feedback and to keep you on track.


alumni@drexel.edu