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This article was first published 13 years ago

8 things that can ruin your career

Last updated on: December 20, 2010 16:36 IST

Parul Banka

Have there been tough times at work when you felt miserable? Times when you wondered why you were still at the job? While some of you may have exercised control on the urge to just walk out, others end up committing professional suicide. Let us look at some of the things that can ruin your career.

1. Job abandonment

This phrase is used when an employee indulges in a no-show at work a particular number of days (as per the company policy) and is not reachable.

I spoke to over hundred managers on the issue of employees doing a no-show at work. One thing that came forth very strongly was that the managers at least wanted to be kept informed that a person does not want to continue working at the organization.

Most of them believed that talking would have possibly helped to resolve the situation by exploring alternatives. Result: The manager feels that s/he has not been confided into. 

The repercussions of abandoning the job are not limited to spoiling relationships with managers and other colleagues. Here are a few more consequences:

With organizations resorting to technology for data storage, employee records are kept safe for many years. Most of the good organizations do not rehire people who had absconded earlier.

The world is small and the world at work is smaller. Word tends to spread fast and all that job abandonment reeks of is unprofessionalism.

In today's world, where meaningful networking is so critical, burning bridges is definitely not a career aid.

In some countries, it takes just a few seconds to track a person. E.g. US has a unique Social Security Numbers assigned to every individual. UK has a National Insurance Number assigned to every working person. Therefore, if you attempt job abandonment there, you would surely be caught.

Remember that you are bound legally by terms and conditions of employment. Therefore, the employer has the right to take you to court for not fulfilling a notice period.

About the writer: Parul Banka is a Human Resources and Training professional.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

8 things that can ruin your career

2. Faking credentials

Are you in desperate need of a job or want to eagerly work for a particular company? If yes, I say 'go for it'.

But wait. Have they asked for some qualification or experience that you do not have? Has any agency or consultant advised that they would be able to arrange for the required documentation, be it a certificate or an experience letter, to fill in the gap? If yes, then beware you are about to fall into a rabbit hole which does not lead to a Wonderland.

Most good organizations (across the world) do a thorough background check on the candidate before rolling out the offer letter. Most of the fake cases get screened at this stage.

If you manage to secure an offer letter but get discovered later, termination would be imminent. Remember that means not just losing your job but also your dignity as a professional and an individual.

8 things that can ruin your career

3. Toxic humour or backbiting at work

If you remember participating in a humourous discussion, which made you feel guilty, you would know it is toxic humour I am referring to.

I remember such a discussion between two senior colleagues: a lady was studying law along with working. At the same time, her marriage was going through a rough patch and reconciliation with her partner looked challenging.

One of the colleagues commented that as soon as the lady completes law, the first case that she would fight would probably be of her own divorce! I was listening and I wringed in disgust.

Remember when you indulge in such sarcasm, it does not fall under appropriate behaviour at work place.

4. Washroom gossip

I recall an incident when a top management person was overheard discussing classified information in the washroom. She was discussing it over a call, little realizing that someone was comfortably listening, outside the door.

Of course, the incident was reported to the HR Head of the organization, under unacceptable behaviour. What might look like harmless catching up with a colleague could have serious repercussions.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

8 things that can ruin your career

5. Ownership issues

I strongly believe in one of the quotations I had read in school No success is final, no failure is fatal. Since no failure is fatal (except situations such as a parachute failing to open while skydiving) people should be open to the idea of accepting their mistakes.

Unfortunately, not all people have the courage to own up mistakes. Such people try to blame others for their goof-ups and portray lack of ownership.

Remember, the organization would find it difficult to entrust you with larger roles, if you are perceived to have ownership issues.

6. Committing but not delivering

I remember a colleague, who would commit to every task, but was extremely poor on the delivery. After a while, people realized that it was commitments sans delivery. Result: The person had to pay heavily with her credibility.

Illustration: Dominic Xavier

8 things that can ruin your career

7. Misuse of corporate assets

With businesses becoming more challenging than ever before, organizations are providing greater facilities to their employees. Email, laptops, Blackberry phones and corporate credit cards are just a few of such facilities.

We must remember that these are corporate assets and that we should not use them for personal usage.

A small amount of usage is anyhow permitted by the organizations. However, it is important to take care that we do not cross the line.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

8 things that can ruin your career

8. Violating organizational policies

If you have some work experience, you must have come across organizational policies. As an HR, I have seen that many employees considered understanding policies to be cumbersome.

They eagerly want to start delivery business. I strongly recommend that we understand all the policies completely as they are formulated for employees. Adherence to policies is everyone's business and not just someone else's.

I recall a colleague who used official email to pass on some information for entertainment, which was not under the purview of acceptable content at the organization. He was immediately tracked and handed over the termination letter.

Another colleague found herself in a soup after she tried to get away with three weeks of leave when she had approval only for a week. If she understood the rigour of policies, she might have been able to avoid the strict warning letter issued by HR as well as the tag of being unprofessional.

Sticking to basics

While taking care of the above mentioned points, do remember the basic ones such as respecting colleagues and treating them as equals. If you act bossy or take a high-handed approach, you would have nothing to lose but your (own) respect.

I loved a lesson from one of the senior colleagues, Revathi, at work. She would say, 'Each of us is a brand and it depends on us how we manage it. Remember each time we do or not do something, we either make or break our brand'.

Therefore, please remember that you have the sole onus of managing the brand called 'You'. Manage it well and avoid professional suicide. Good luck!