If you repeat a behavior often enough, it is going to become a habit. It means that you can begin to perform the action without having to think about doing so. This happens because repetition creates strong links in the brain between the stimulus and the response. Life would be incredibly difficult if it wasn’t for your ability to develop habits, because it would mean even brushing your teeth would require concentration.
Repetitive behavior is imprinted on neural networks regardless of whether this action is benefiting you or hurting you. This means that if you engage in a negative behavior often enough, it is going to become a bad habit. It all happens unconsciously, and it takes as little as 21 days for repetitive behavior to become habitual. Picking up a bad habit is easy, but overcoming it can be far more of a challenge.
One of the problems with habits is that it can sometimes be difficult to decide if they are working for us or against us. If you automatically bombard your ears with loud music by sticking headphones over your ears every time you leave the house, you will be providing a bumping soundtrack for your life, but you’ll also be damaging your hearing. There are also habits that fall into a grey area – you suspect that they may sometimes produce negative effects, but you regard them as mostly harmless.
If a bad habit is preventing you from getting ahead in your career, you are going to be able to take action to overcome this behavior. Making this type of change isn’t always easy, but you can once you have the right motivation. The problem with habits that appear harmless is that they can be damaging your reputation without you even realizing it.
Here are eight habits that can seem harmless but may still be negatively impacting your career.
Complaining About Your Job
If you have had a stressful day at the office, it is understandable that you are going to want to let off some steam. It’s human nature to occasionally complain about having an ungrateful boss or incompetent colleagues. The danger is that if this venting is witnessed by the wrong person, it could harm your reputation or even put your career in jeopardy.
One thing you definitely want to avoid doing is complaining about your boss or company on social media. You can never really be sure who is going to be reading your comments, and it looks unprofessional anyway. If news gets around that you are harming the reputation of the company, it’s not going to make you popular in the office – at least not with people who could help your career.
Being Negative All The Time
Don’t be that person in the office who is like a volcano of doom and gloom. This behavior can feel harmless if you believe you are just telling it like it is, but too much negativity can make you hard to be around. It may even mean that your boss begins to view you as a bit of a liability – it only takes one negative person on a team to lower the overall motivation.
The other danger with such negativity is that it be incredibly disempowering, and it can use up a lot of your energy and focus.
Social Media Addiction
Many of us have become so habituated to social media that we can end up checking thelatest updates on Facebook or Twitter automatically when we go online. This can become a huge distraction if you work using a computer connected to the internet.
It isn’t only that doing this is a waste of work time, but it can also take a few minutes to regain your focus after this type of distraction. This can mean that your productivity suffers, and this can put your career in jeopardy.
Always Speaking Your Mind
There is a difference between behaving honestly and using the truth as a weapon to hurt people or cause trouble. In a work environmen,t it is vital to always think of the possible consequences before speaking your mind.
Saying the wrong thing, even if you believe you are being honest, can hurt people’s feelings and cause a bad atmosphere in the office. Sometimes it is going to be necessary for you to provide criticism, but it is best to use this sparingly, unless you want to develop a reputation as someone who is hard to work with.
Acting Like The Office Clown
Telling funny stories, playing pranks, and acting the clown can make you popular in the office, but it can also destroy your reputation. It means that nobody is going to take you seriously and you may begin to be viewed as unsuitable for promotion.
One of the other dangers of being the office clown is that humor can cause upset when used inappropriately.
Self-handicapping is an attempt to protect the ego from failure. Behavioral self-handicapping is where people deliberately sabotage their own efforts – for example, getting drunk the night before an important meeting. Claimed self-handicapping involves providing an excuse for failure before even trying something – for example, mentioning a recent illness as an excuse for not being able to do good work on a project.
Self-handicapping becomes a habit because it can help to protect your self-esteem. If you believe that you tried your best but failed, it is going to be a bit of a blow to your ego. The advantage of self-handicapping is that it gives you an excuse for the failure. The problem is that it means you are never going to be able to give 100 per cent to anything, so you are only likely to achieve mediocre results in life. These days, being good at your job isn’t enough in many industries – you need to be great at it, but this can’t happen if you are self-handicapping.
A bit of modesty can be an attractive personality trait, but it can become a liability if it prevents you from promoting yourself at work. It is unrealistic to expect managers to always be able to spot your hidden potential. There is also the likelihood that unless you speak up, many of your career successes are going to go unnoticed.
You don’t want to turn into some type of ego-manic, but you also have to be careful of underselling yourself. The trick is to develop a good understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses – this requires complete honesty and the ability to be objective about yourself. If you feel that there is a project where you could perform well, or that you are ready for a promotion, you need to sell your suitability to those in charge.
You’ve no doubt heard the cautionary tale about the boy who called “wolf” too many times. Exaggerating problems can seem like a harmless tactic to get other people’s attention, but it can actually damage your career.
It may mean that you develop a reputation for being a bit of a ‘drama queen’, and when you identity real problems, other people won’t take you seriously. There is never any real need to exaggerate problems – things are either serious or they aren’t.