While it’s rare that a single blunder could kill a career, there are a few behaviors that, over time, might get you donated back to the industry. Typically, these occurrences involve employees who ignore or are never made aware of, a fatal flaw in their leadership style. Examples of such career derailers are abundant and include:
- The salesperson who hits the numbers, but tramples the internal team along the way.
- The functional leader who manages his/her boss well, but destroys engagement with peers and direct reports by taking credit for their work and creating a hellish workplace environment.
- The executive who professes a “people first” philosophy, then makes decisions that clearly run counter to that claim.
These are slow death mistakes that can wreak havoc on an organization if left unchecked. Luckily, they are correctable if caught. The offender just needs to posses the underlying humility to accept his/her flaws and a willingness to learn from the past and change course.
Career killing cliff jumps on the other hand come from breaking rules, ignoring ethics, or purposefully misleading potential customers then failing to deliver. There’s little management or HR can do in these cases except expeditiously deal with the parties and then enhance policies, practices, and culture to help prevent a reoccurrence.
The good news is that most career mistakes are both forgivable and fixable. As long as you acknowledge the issue, accept accountability, and work towards a remedy, you’ll likely recover. After all, who among us is infallible?
Of course, not every organization is fair and forgiving. In rare occasions you may find yourself on the chopping block for political reasons such as calling out an influential party who demonstrates negative behaviors noted above. Hopefully your organization tolerates neither ill action nor retaliation. But if it does, fear not the exit. True leaders value integrity above all. Better to leave a scandalous company than succeed as a yes man within it.
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