HR Policies & Procedures

4 Traits Employees Adopt That Sabotage the Workplace

In order to change bad behavior, you have to first recognize it.

annoying coworker

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When an employee evaluates his or her standing within a company, they often neglect to identify one key component that may be placing them lower than expected in the office pecking order: their own inner faults. It is far too easy and convenient to place blame on other coworkers, a demanding boss, or that middle manager that just doesn’t seem to get it.  Moreover, it’s human nature to focus on others’ weaknesses rather than looking at one’s own shortcomings when problems arise. However, a self-reflection on these internal failings can often be the key to finding solutions that increase work performance and strengthen an employee’s reputation in the eyes of his or her employer.

It’s important to understand that self-sabotage starts within and is expressed through unconscious or learned bad habits and behavior. Think of the bad-habit doughnut providing too many “cheat days” for one’s career. These tendencies, which quickly and surreptitiously build upon one another, may be triggered by events that occur both in the workplace and externally. While there are myriad ways an employee might unknowingly sabotage themselves throughout the workday, here are four of the more prevalent predispositions to which an understanding can help workers better their standing in a company, increase their level of emotional intelligence around their colleagues, and create a more favorable working environment for all members of their team.

Setting a pattern of not showing up to work. Is an employee showing up late and leaving early? Are they calling in sick every Monday morning? This type of behavior is a strong indicator that someone is disengaging with the company, and employers and coworkers take note of people not willing to go the extra mile for the team. While it’s great to show that work can be completed in a timely fashion, employees should never give their teams the notion that they are expendable.

Isolating oneself from others. I have seen many employees isolate themselves from their colleagues before eventually leaving their jobs. These people would often sequester themselves away in a conference room or other quiet area to work, effectively disengaging from their teammates and shutting down lines of communication that are essential to group collaboration. Sure, there are times when folks are working on a big project and may find it beneficial to focus on their individual task at hand away from the team. However, when this isolating behavior becomes a habit, colleagues take notice of that person’s desire to distance themselves from the group, often questioning the employee’s commitment to the greater purpose of the project.

Taking on too much control of their responsibilities. I have frequently heard in exit interviews with past colleagues that the company will never be able to replace them because of all the responsibilities they controlled. These employees either refused to cross-train their team or never allowed folks to shadow their work and engage with their clients. This behavior can also be very isolating for an individual and leaves less room for adjustments and growth within an organization. This is one of the key areas where I see folks stall in their progression within a company because there is a natural shedding of responsibilities as one advances up the ranks. If an employee stagnates with a specific set of responsibilities, unwilling to teach their skills and learn from others, growth cannot happen.

Focusing too much on the “I” in conversations. One’s colleagues can easily see when communication has become one-sided. When an overwhelming amount of emphasis is put on the “I” in their conversations with their manager, colleagues, and even clients, this can be problematic. There are two sides to this: On one side, the employee may feel comfortable talking about themselves with no intention to overpower or degrade anyone else. On the other side, the employee may use the “I” conversations to set ultimatums or create dysfunction within the workplace. These “I” conversations can lead to very defensive responses and actions from both parties and have, at times, lead to performance write-ups and/or termination, even when the communication is unintentional.

Overall, self-sabotaging behavior can be reset through avenues that motivate or disrupt the pattern, calling out these tendencies and providing solutions to rid employees of their bad habits. Whether by setting achievable goals, taking on new challenges, or even meeting with a career coach, managers and colleagues can help motivate the employee to begin looking within to observe the behavior, help find a way to realize success, and open oneself up to new opportunities.

Megan Zeeck is the Director of Human Resources at Elements Holdings Group & Subsidiaries.