Five personality traits that are holding you back at work

Working in the public sector means we often talk about the characteristics that can make us more successful in our careers, not as often do we turn our attention to what’s holding us back.

Here we look at five personality traits of people who will struggle to get ahead at work unless they change their behaviours.

Don’t panic if you recognise any of these people in yourself, thankfully they needn’t be deal breakers for your career, providing you’re willing to address them:

1.    The pessimist 

We all know this person; the glass is always half-empty, life’s all a bit difficult and they constantly feel short-changed and hard done by. The pessimist sees change at work as a negative thing, rather than a new opportunity. Pessimists often don’t succeed at work because they can’t see how to fulfil goals. They spent their time picturing how things could go wrong, instead of focussing on how to make them work.

To increase your chances of success as a pessimist, when you catch yourself thinking negatively, stop, examine your thinking, and then consciously reframe it into something positive. Look for ways that the problem could become an opportunity.

2.    The hothead

These employees have little control over their emotions. They get angry at the smallest provocation or misread cue and blow a fuse.  If you cannot control your temper you lose the respect of your colleagues and managers who will view you as unprofessional.

If you find yourself losing your cool in the workplace, it’s time to start reading up on how to control your temper before you lose it. There are many ways to do this such as counting to 10 or taking some long, slow, deep breaths before speaking when you’re angry and/or taking time out from the situation.

3.    The bully

While some bullies do make it to the top, their career growth and further opportunities are almost always stinted by the fact that they are disliked and feared. The destructive behaviour of a bully also holds businesses back from success as they alienate people instead of bringing them together. And in the wise words of Steve Jobs: “Great things in business are never done by one person. They are done by a team of people.”  

If you know you have bullied others then you need to speak about it with someone you can trust, understand the impact, and apologise to the people you have hurt.

4.    The apologiser

This person is always saying sorry, even when they have nothing to be sorry for, ‘I’m sorry to bother you’, ‘sorry I’m in your way’, ‘sorry this’ and ‘sorry that’. The problem with the chronic over-apologiser is that this behaviour can often give others an impression that they are incompetent and lacking in confidence. Apologising for everything can also come across as annoying and insincere to others. For many apologisers, the behaviour is an impulse reaction which thankfully can be changed.

If you relate to the apologiser, the first step to changing your behaviour is to start being more mindful of when you’re saying sorry. Take a deep breath in situations where you might say “sorry” automatically. Ask yourself if you really did do something wrong. If not drop “sorry” from the sentence.

5.    The change resistor

You can identify this person in an instant, the only words you need to hear fall out of their mouth is ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it,’ and you know you’re dealing with a change resistor. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of room left in the evolving world of work for this type of personality and unless they’re willing to try something new they will find themselves getting left behind.

If you find yourself falling for the group-think that the status quo is best, you should start challenging your thinking. Perhaps it’s time to do a little upskilling of research around what innovation looks like in your industry and how it could help you.

Ultimately if you can disrupt the negative habits and create new ones you’re going to enjoy your working day more and increase your chances of success.

But remember shifting your behaviour isn’t always easy and it’s difficult to do on your own. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  You can talk to your HR department, your industrial counsellor if you have one, or an independent professional about how to get started.

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