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10 ways to ruin your career

Last updated on: July 23, 2014 12:03 IST

10 ways to ruin your career

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Devika Arora

Apart from doing the job you are paid to do, working in a professional setup demands maintaining decorum and knowing how to communicate effectively. While most employees ensure the former is taken care of, they seldom understand the importance of the latter. They feel communication primarily takes place in the verbal and written form, ignoring the fact that non-verbal communication is equally important, be it body language, facial expressions, posture, eye contact, tone of voice or physical gestures.

If you wish to become a future leader, you ought to know that external communication is very crucial to build executive presence and to polish your personal brand. By exercising a little caution and regularly analysing your conduct, you can avoid the pitfalls of poor communication.

The following points will highlight the worst communication mistakes, both verbal and non-verbal, that you can make in the office. Beware of these unforgiving blunders as they may hamper your professional growth.

Let us begin with the non-verbal communication mistakes…

1. Scratching yourself in public

Scratching yourself publicly would put off anyone and everyone. Not only is it disgusting, it is distracting too! Scratching and fidgeting are strong gestures that send incorrect signals and detract from your executive presence.

You must also avoid fiddling with your clothes and mobile devices during meetings as this makes you look tense or shows that you are not paying attention.

Devika Arora is a professional writer and blogger with special focus on career building and job search. She is currently working with Naukrigulf.com, a job search portal addressing employment needs in the Middle East.

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2. Avoiding eye contact

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According to experts who study body language, avoiding eye contact while talking to someone can make you seem like you are hiding something or are lying.

When you do so in a meeting, it gives an impression that you are probably not interested.

When you look a person in the eye and talk to them, it makes them feel as if you are listening to them. The stronger the eye contact, the more interest it demonstrates.

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3. Crying

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Did you just cry in front of your seniors? Not good!

Workplace tears certainly harm your chances of climbing the professional ladder as it portrays a weak image and harms your image as a potential leader.

Crying strips you of all the leadership qualities, especially if you are a man.

Women look bad while crying but for men this is one of the biggest mistakes of their careers. You need to be in control of your emotions to be taken seriously at work.

Now the verbal mistakes...

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4. Racially biased comments

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Racially biased comments spell disaster for both men and women alike. It is considered to be one of the major impediments to promotion amongst professionals because not only is it derogatory, it is also an offense.

If your boss has ever denied you promotion because of it, then s/he has a good reason.

Offensive remarks or jokes based on race, colour and creed can easily offend a person and make her/him uncomfortable around you, revealing your inability to work in a group and gel with others.

You should be able to sense the mood of your colleagues and effectively modify your tone, language and content. If you can’t do that, it will reflect poor judgment on your part and you will come across as someone with low emotional intelligence.

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5. Reacting angrily rather than responding calmly

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Do you remember shouting at a co-worker when you were frustrated or sending a terse reply to a particular email without understanding the other person’s perspective?

If yes, then your reactions certainly stem from an emotional outburst, rather than logical reasoning.

Such emotional reactions can harm your reputation. Your strong emotions coupled with impulsive reactions may upset people around you, which will give an impression that you lack self-control.

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6. Sounding uneducated

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When you seek to reach the top level, it is necessary for you to portray gravitas, intellectual horsepower and worldliness.

Sounding uneducated and unaware of current affairs and issues surrounding the organisation will instantly undermine your chances of ascension.

Thus, it is important that you update yourself with not only what is happening in your company, but also around the world.

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7. Swearing

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Cursing and swearing is again a gender-neutral faux pas which can be considered distasteful at the workplace.

Even if you are friendly with your colleagues, such behaviour is unfitting and unprofessional for a leader in the making.

And swearing isn’t just done orally; it can be in the written form too.

Many employees make the mistake of cursing their bosses on social media platforms without realising that their colleagues are added in their friend list!

This becomes a major online communication blunder as you may be posting unflattering messages and unprofessional photos that may be reported to your seniors.

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8. Flirting

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Flirting is the subtle suggestion that there is an existence or a possibility of something sexual between two individuals. And even though it may be harmless, it is unfitting according to workplace culture and can easily be taken in the wrong sense.

Some may feel that it makes the men look macho and it certainly puts the women under the spotlight, flirting is still believed to be immoral in the office.

It undercuts your professional reputation, irrespective of your gender.

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9. Rambling

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Do you go on speaking without making much sense? No… Yes. Are you confused? If you have a problem keeping your message coherent and succinct, then maybe you are not in control.

When you begin to ramble you tend to weaken the impact of the point you are trying to make. You may even end up portraying a non-serious image.

Women in particular have trouble maintaining long silences and have a tendency to fill spaces with chatter but they should understand the power of silence. If you leave spaces around important thoughts, it gives weight to what you say.

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10. Giggling too much

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Have you ever seen Barack Obama giggling too much? Guess not.

Leaders do not laugh too much without a good reason. Smiling is different but giggling away is considered to be communication mistake. So is speaking shrilly.

An appropriate laughter and modulated tone of voice are key indicators of sovereignty.

High-pitched shrill voice and unnecessary chortling with shoulder-shaking comes across as an attention-seeking tactic and highlights your low self-esteem, taking away your assertiveness.

Always remember that communication is a two-way process and how the other person perceives your messages can be clearly understood by his/her response. Avoid the above communication to protect your reputation and present yourself with dignity.


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