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Managing Principals by Julia Kramer Habitual Offenders

No one wants to work with these seven habits of highly (in)effective people. Do they describe you?

By  Julia Kramer

I have long believed that, left unchecked, an individual’s behavioral history repeats itself. Current events, technology and the value we place on our jobs all change, but our bad habits stick to us like white on rice. With apologies to Stephen Covey, these seven habits are ones we all should avoid.

Negativity is at the top of the list for a very simple reason: It limits your opportunities because no one wants to manage, work with or work for a naysayer or spoilsport. Think about the last assignment you received or the last idea that someone shared with you. Was your initial reaction “I don’t want to do it” or “That’s a bad idea because…”? If so, identify why you reacted that way. If you find you’re a compulsive killjoy, maybe due to fear of change, no room on your plate or plain disinterest, lighten up and reframe future responses. View change and innovation as ways to spread your wings, share new experiences and have a little fun.

Carelessness takes many forms. Consistently poor work products, a general lack of sensitivity to others and even an unprofessional appearance could be the result of carelessness. If this sounds like you, you’re also being careless with your career and chances for success. Review your work, not just for errors, but for quality. Develop appropriate social skills and practice basic courtesies so that you don’t sabotage important relationships. Even if you think you’re a super-model employee, check your clothes for cleanliness, fit (no gaping between buttons!) and appropriateness; i.e., that favorite brown and yellow plaid, short-sleeved, button-down won’t work at an evening business-attire reception—even if you, heaven help us, add a tie.

Procrastination. I’ll write about it later. Really. Right after I finish this other thing. It’ll probably be tomorrow or maybe early next week. At the latest, next month. Certainly before the end of the year.
Arrogance defines those who think they are, in most ways, better than others. They are just begging for someone to take them down. If you work with or for “Mr. Big Head,” nothing is more wickedly satisfying than to see him topple from the extreme imbalance he’s created between reality and his self-perception. Not to be confused with someone taking pride in a job well done or exuding confidence born of proven expertise, the egomaniac thinks she always has the best answer and doesn’t need other opinions. Her self-perception may be so inflated that her eyes are swollen shut and she can’t see herself clearly. Frequently, it takes someone else to forcibly open her eyes with some supportive yet direct comments.

Disrespect for others includes bad-mouthing someone instead of dealing directly with them, publicly chastising an employee, shunning or excluding someone, talking over others in meetings, intentionally making another feel inadequate and incompetent, or purposefully inflaming a situation. All are sure-fire ways to lose the respect of others. Practice honest communication, meet interpersonal issues head-on and learn to relate difficult information or negative feedback in an appropriate and professional way. Not only will you be treating others with the respect they deserve, you’ll be gaining the respect of others at the same time.

Suspicion clouds a person’s perception and turns benign situations and individuals into malignancies to be feared, battled and/or shunned. Sometimes it’s the result of actual experience; for example, an employee who experienced age discrimination at a previous job pulls the age card whenever things don’t go his way, despite no evidence to support his suspicion. Sometimes it’s the result of insecurities. At one job, a woman was convinced that her manager didn’t promote her because she had, in her words, “bad teeth.” My strategy is always the same. Sit the person down, listen to their perspective, offer facts to counter the suspicions, and provide continued support as the employee learns to trust the situation.

Neediness is a really nasty symptom of extreme insecurity. While even the most self-assured need support, affirmation and an emotional bear hug now and then, once received, they savor the experience and move on. Those characterized as needy do not move on. They are a bottomless pit. Compliments and recognition are swallowed whole, never to be remembered. The hunger reappears and makes the individual uncomfortable and wanting another serving. Don’t continue to feed this beast; it’ll just grow larger, and there won’t be enough for anyone else. Reminding the person of what they’ve already received and sensitively discussing their need for an inordinate amount of reinforcement will help manage the situation.

These seven habits are all too common, and if we’re honest, we see ourselves a little bit in each one. It’s just human nature. But don’t let bad habits take over. If you do, they’ll throw you—and those who report to you—off course and limit your potential. Instead, routinely and openly address the issues and consistently resolve the problems. The success you’ll experience is habit-forming. I hope you get hooked very soon.

Kramer, and HR consultant, is a contributing writer.

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Got a human resources problem you can?t resolve? Ask our HR guru Julia Kramer, SPHR, how to handle those sticky personnel issues everyone wants to avoid.