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12 Ways You Sabotage Yourself at Work

Posted on: March 28th, 2014 by Pam Norton 41 Comments

Recently I reached out to some of the people I’ve coached over the past four years and asked them what results and value they got from my coaching, if they’ve had any additional transformations and where would they be today if we hadn’t worked together.  I thought I knew what they would say, but I was blown away by what I heard.

They all said it was empowering to now be working to their strengths – how they thought about themselves and their job had changed.  Many had found new and better jobs, and they loved having a “rockin” resume in their desk drawer just in case.  In fact three clients said they read their resume before big meetings to get a confidence boost.

What I didn’t expect was to hear the same thing over and over again:  one of the key benefits from our work together was help in identifying and stopping their self-sabotaging, self-destructive behaviors.  They can hear my voice inside their head when something doesn’t feel right. Yes, not only do I coach people, apparently I also haunt them (at no extra charge).

What are the most common self-sabotaging behaviors?  I went back through my client notes, thought about former colleagues and even took a hard look in the mirror.  I’m sure this isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a start.  Here are my ‘dirty dozen’ in no particular order:

  1. Not managing your shadow.  We all have an inner ogre, a gremlin that emerges when we’re in a situation we don’t like.  If you find yourself feeling angry, frustrated, defensive or any other negative emotion most of the time, your shadow is in charge, and it will wreak havoc and/or get you fired.
  2. Groundhog Day.   You experience the same setback time after time, year after year, but never figure out why or what’s really going on.
  3. Limiting beliefs.  Your definition/vision of yourself or any other situation is too small probably because you think that setting the bar low will up the chances for success.
  4. You don’t let yourself be happy.  I know someone who just got a great job that he really wanted but is disappointed that he didn’t get a call back after an interview for a job he didn’t want.
  5. Not recognizing and playing to your strengths.
  6. Not investing in your own personal and professional development either because you’re complacent or you expect your employer to do this for you.  I often hear the excuse, “I’m too busy.”
  7. Falling into a role at work which downplays your value and doesn’t showcase your potential; e.g., the department mom, the party planner, the dutiful daughter/son looking to the boss to grant you authority to take action and protection.
  8. Thinking everyone is the same as you – that they have the same values, same strengths, same viewpoint, same work ethic.  In other words, you don’t recognize what’s unique about others and therefore don’t recognize what’s unique about you.
  9. Focusing on tasks and activities rather than focusing on value.  You don’t understand the ‘why’ behind what you do.
  10. Making things too complicated by over-thinking, over-analyzing, over-engineering.  This can be a form of procrastination or perfectionism.
  11. Intentionally ignoring or flying in the face of the prevailing culture as a form of self-expression.
  12. Passing the buck – not taking responsibility for your own shit or not taking credit for your accomplishments.

How many of these do you recognize?  Perhaps you see them in others or you struggle with them yourself.  Over the next few weeks I’ll expand on these and give you some tools and strategies for handling them.

In the meantime, pay attention.  You might even her my voice inside your head asking, “What’s really going on here,” or “Just stop it!”

41 Responses

  1. Kathy says:

    Wow, how eye-opening this post is to me. I have experienced every one of these “dirty dozen” self-sabotaging behaviors…some are from the past which I can still recall very clearly, and some are in my space now. Thank you so much for this enlightening post that has made me realize that I must always check in with myself and make the conscious decision to overcome behaviors that have been known to plague me.

    • Pam Norton says:

      I won’t reveal how many of items on this list came from me taking a hard look at my own experience, but it was more than one! I think we’ve all experienced each of them at one time or another.

  2. Kelley says:

    Pam I love that you gave your clients the opportunity to reflect on their work with you and how things gave changed. I also love the wisdom of identifying your sabotaging patterns and transforming the beliefs and thoughts that feed the unconscious behavior. That leads to true freedom!

  3. martha says:

    This is huge! It is so important to be aware of those patterns/limiting beliefs that keep us stuck and creating self-sabotage in our personal and professional life.

    • Pam Norton says:

      It’s a never-ending journey, kind of playing whack-a-mole. As we progress, new patterns and limiting beliefs raise their ugly heads. No one is immune, but successful people catch themselves quickly and adjust. A good goal for all of us!

  4. laura says:

    WoW WoW WoW ~ What a comprehensive list !!! And so true……I used to be a very task oriented person…made me fill like I was getting a lot done. But, the reality of it was, like you say, i’d get things done but not accomplish offering the value that I am to my clients and to the world! #taskadddictionrecoverer 😉

    • Pam Norton says:

      There’s something so satisfying about crossing tasks off our list. I even feel a sense of completion when I’ve finished the crossword in the newspaper. This was one of the hardest adjustments for me when I left my corporate job to start my business – making the distinction between “getting stuff done” and the value-adding, money generating activities which don’t always get done in a few hours. Very challenging!

  5. Kelly says:

    Really great post chock full of content and relevant questions! I am a die hard “over thinker”!

  6. […] a career coach I’ve observed so many ways we sabotage ourselves at work.  In my last post I listed my ‘dirty dozen.’  Not Managing Your Shadow was listed first because […]

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  8. […] There’s no one more worthy of an investment in personal and professional development than you.  We invest our time and money in others, often people we don’t even know, but we often don’t invest in ourselves.  It’s one of my dirty dozen self-sabotaging behaviors. […]

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