Your Career: The One Bad Habit Slowly Hurting It
March 14, 2016

Your Career: The One Bad Habit Slowly Hurting It

by Brian de Haaff

I have definitely worked with some unique people over the years. There was Morris, who would discard his unwanted snacks under his desk, and Jack, who seemed strangely attached to one favorite pair of pants and a stained shirt. (Don’t worry, I changed their names.)

Most of us have a few bad habits that impact others, slow down our progress at work, and may even hurt our careers. But typically, we learn to work around our own oddities and get along with others who are unlike us.

I bet you know a co-worker who interrupts everyone in mid-sentence, has a terrible throat-clearing habit, or always leaves a mess in the microwave for someone else to clean up.

You do not want to be like that. So, you strive for good relationships and are mindful of your own habits that might get under someone’s skin.

But there is one habit that is unlike the rest — and despite your efforts, it may be ruining your reputation, and you may not even know it.

So, what is it?

You do not do what you say you will do.

Most people I know do their best and care deeply about others. Sometimes they care so much that they over-commit. They say things that they wish to be true or hope they will accomplish. But in reality, they know they will probably not do the work. They make what sounds like a promise — and then fail to deliver on it. These unfulfilled commitments damage their reputation and hurt the other person who was depending on them as well.

If this bad habit rings true, maybe you are too busy, or you procrastinate and then simply run out of time. Or maybe you are just forgetful, or always underestimate how long certain tasks will take. Whatever the reason, a lack of follow-through can seriously damage your career if you allow it to.

Here is why this bad habit is a big deal. It:

Stalls progress If your goals always seem beyond your reach — and you feel like your career is going nowhere — your lack of follow-through may be to blame. And it makes sense. You cannot move onto the next to-do if you do not accomplish the first task.

Limits opportunities Have you noticed that your co-workers are receiving plum assignments, but you often seem to be passed over? This may not be your imagination. Employers look for team members who deliver results, and they reward them accordingly.

Harms credibility Experience is a great teacher, so if you have a poor track record of follow-through, your co-workers may have learned to only half-believe your promises. They may hope for the best but always prepare for the worst — that the task may not get done.

Disappoints others Other people at the company are likely rooting for you to succeed and start fulfilling your potential. But when you fail to complete tasks, you may be letting down the very people who want to believe in you and count on you for leadership.

Adds work When you commit to tasks but fail to do them, your colleagues may be scrambling to complete the tasks that you pledged to do. This adds to everyone else’s workload unnecessarily and can be frustrating (especially if you seem blissfully unaware of the problem).

The good news is you can correct this bad habit, once you realize you are doing it.

It will not be easy, so start small and practice following through on simple tasks. Strive to become goal-driven, keeping a to-do list and marking off each task you complete. Then, only promise what you know you can deliver, and hold yourself accountable to accomplishing it. But do not be afraid to explain why you cannot fulfill a request — it is okay to say no.

Changing this habit will take plenty of effort. But if you can become someone that others can count on for follow-through, soon you will be known for your achievement, not your broken promises.

What other tips can you share with people who break promises?

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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