4 behaviors that might be holding you back at work

Apr 08, 2024

5 mins

4 behaviors that might be holding you back at work

Have you ever wanted to know the secret to a successful career? Some might say having a unique skill set or a strong work ethic will take you the furthest, while others swear that mastering networking or finding the perfect cultural fit is key. The truth is, no one element of your professional profile is going to make or break your career. You could have a specialized degree or years of experience, but if you’re a poor communicator or disorganized, you may not have as much success as a more well-rounded candidate.

If you’re at a point in your career where you feel like you haven’t advanced as far as you expected or you worry you aren’t fitting in at the office, it can be hard to identify why things aren’t shaking out as you hoped. If you can’t put your finger on a concrete explanation for why things aren’t going smoothly at work, it may be time to reflect on your behavior and see if there are any signs that you’re getting in your own way when it comes to building a successful career. It’s easy to recognize unprofessional or unproductive behavior in our colleagues, but it can be more of a challenge to see when the root of the problem is closer to home.

Failing to meet your potential

People invest so much time, energy, and money into laying a strong foundation for their careers, so when it seems like it isn’t paying off, it can be quite disheartening if there’s no obvious reason. Do you feel like your progress has plateaued? Have you stopped upskilling, or do you believe you’re being passed over for promotion without explanation? If you think your skills, background, and goals aren’t in alignment with your current situation, it may be time to take a hard look inward and see if you have any detrimental behaviors that may be sabotaging your success. Maybe you already know what your weak points are and just don’t know how to change them. But more likely, you’re struggling to see what might be holding you back when it comes to the way you behave in the workplace. So, what are some common traits that could keep you from living up to your full potential?


We’re all too familiar with this one, yet it can be one of the most difficult habits to overcome. Everyone knows that anxious feeling of putting off a task, knowing you’ll have to come back to it eventually. Procrastination isn’t always obvious, and it can sneak up on you. No matter how big or small a task or project is, it can be tempting to keep telling yourself you’ll get to something later, especially when you think you have more than enough time to do it. Some people work well under pressure, but at the end of the day, if you wait until the last minute to accomplish something, the quality is going to suffer. If you often find yourself working late to finish projects the night before they’re due or rushing to prepare for scheduled meetings, you may be struggling with procrastination.

If you think you may be a procrastinator, it’s important to make sure you aren’t mistaking it for something else. Try reflecting on how you budgeted your time on a recent project that was left until the last minute. Was it rushed because you avoided starting it, or were you too busy with other work to give it enough attention? Be careful not to dismiss burnout as procrastination. There’s a difference between mismanaging your time and having too heavy of a workload to meet your deadlines.

While it can be hard to tackle procrastination, there are concrete steps you can take to overcome it. Start by working on your organizational skills. Try different ways of tracking different projects or deadlines and see what works for you. You can start by creating a calendar and planning when you’re going to work on certain tasks. Maybe you’ll prefer working on a big assignment a little bit each day, or maybe you need to carve out a few days to really focus on completing it. Try out different time management styles and see which one is the best fit for you.


Nobody’s perfect, and holding yourself to an impossible standard will only hold you back when it comes to work. While it may seem like striving for perfection will improve your performance, placing too much emphasis on perfectionism can foster unhealthy habits and relationships with your work and your colleagues. Everyone makes mistakes, and being able to acknowledge failure and move on from it is crucial to career development. Fear of making mistakes can prevent you from taking risks and trying new things, two crucial components of personal and professional development. If you find yourself unable to move on from errors or hyper-focused on making everything perfect, you may need to take a step back and reassess where that energy could be better spent. It would be great if nothing ever went wrong at work, but that’s not reality, and fixating on being perfect can increase stress and risk of burnout for you and your teammates.

Your behavior impacts others

Unfortunately, people don’t have total control over their careers, and when it comes to any form of advancement, other people’s opinions will play a part. While unproductive behavior at work can hinder your development and impact you on a personal level, it can also have a negative effect on the people around you. It’s easy to spot negative or toxic behavior from other people, but it can be less apparent when you’re the one dishing it out. Positive environments and respectful relationships are key parts of fostering a healthy workplace, and one bad apple can spoil the bunch, so don’t let it be you! If you feel like your coworkers are distant towards you or you don’t feel like part of the team, it’s possible that it could be due to unrecognized negative behavior on your part. So, what are some things to watch out for?


Our attitude at the office carries more weight than you might think, and when it comes to building relationships with coworkers and setting a positive tone at work, everyone needs to do their part to keep spirits up. This doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to have a bad day or be upset, but if you notice that you’re regularly bringing negative energy to the workplace, it might be time to reflect on how your attitude affects others.

It’s also important to be able to differentiate between being in a toxic environment and simply being negative. If you’re being bogged down by bad culture, burnout, or anything else related to your work, that’s another story. However, if you feel that your negativity is coming from your personal life or the way you choose to interact with your work, your coworkers may not empathize if it starts to rub off on them.


Aside from your general attitude at work, you also need to be aware of how you behave in and outside of the office. Showing up as your authentic self is how you can show off your personality, and find like-minded people to collaborate with throughout your career. However, it’s important to remember that there are still boundaries in the workplace, and there are a lot of gray areas when it comes to professionalism in the office. Most things are easy to notice and correct, like dressing appropriately, being polite to colleagues and clients, and being respectful of common areas or shared tools. However, it can be harder to gauge how open you can be with your opinions or personal life with coworkers.

Take the time to get to know your colleagues and managers before opening up too much. Remember the role that unconscious bias plays in recruitment and promotion, and be careful only to share sensitive information with people you trust. Along with personal information, take care with other people’s information as well. You may bond with people by talking about other coworkers, but watch how often and with whom you share your opinions. One study found that gossiping is perceived as one of the most irritating work habits, with nearly 40% of workers stating they dislike colleagues who gossip. So, tread lightly and remember that getting on someone’s bad side via gossip could damage workplace dynamics and even come back to bite you when it comes time for a promotion or raise.

Photo: Welcome to the Jungle

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