3 Stubborn Career Myths That Block Your Success

Updated: Sep 18, 2018

Myth #1: Being all work and no play will put you on the fast track to promotion.

You work hard from 9 to 5 or maybe even 7 to 7 with few breaks and no chit-chat so you can get your work done. You don’t hang out in the break room or go to lunch with your co-workers because… duh, work! When the team convenes at the local watering hole for happy hour, you decline because you want to get a head start on a project due next week. For you, work is work, and personal is personal and never the twain shall meet. But that’s okay because you know you’ll be recognized when raise and promotion time comes.

Myth #1 busted: Working longer and harder than everyone else in the office does NOT guarantee that you’ll get ahead.

What matters in the workplace is impact – not how many hours you put in. Are you working on the high priority projects? Are you bringing fresh ideas to the table? Are you solving problems that enable productivity and profitability?

Being willing to be the “workhorse” of a department can cause you to be stuck in your current role. If you are doing the work that no one else wants to do and you’re (seemingly) happy to do it, your boss may keep you in that position and promote others over you. And part of the reason could have something to do with those lunches and happy hours your co-workers took time to attend when you didn’t.

People like to work with people they know and like. As employees move up in organizations, relationships become even more important and those who spend time cultivating a network will be more effective at getting things done.

Myth #2: If you keep your head down and work hard, your work will speak for itself and you’ll get ahead.

You’re smart, hard-working and modest. You're not that tiresome guy or gal in the staff meeting who drones on about ALL THE STUFF they are doing. You prefer to let your work speak for itself. You’re certain that your boss notices that you work harder and produce so much more than your co-workers. You know that when review time comes you’ll get good marks, just like you did on your report card in school because you work HARD!

Myth #2 busted: You cannot assume your boss knows exactly what you are doing unless you tell her.

This myth is closely related to myth #1 and if you adhere to it, chances are you’ll be disappointed. Your boss probably supervises several people besides you, has work of her own, and the expectations of her own boss to worry about. In other words, your boss is busy and distracted.

If you want her to know what a fantastic job you’re doing, you’ve got to tell her on a regular basis. The workplace is not like school – people in the same department are often working on different things and there’s usually no objective way to assign “grades”. Those who work hard and aren’t shy about being their own PR agent usually do better at review time than the silent-but-hopeful crew.

To ensure you get credit for your results it's critical to provide regular updates to your boss either in monthly or bi-weekly one-on-one meetings or in the staff meeting. If neither of those is a possibility, send your boss a periodic email update documenting completed and in-process projects. If you get praise from others within the organization, ask them to put the feedback in an email to you with a cc: to your boss. Rightly or wrongly, often it’s what others say about you that has the most impact on how you’re viewed and valued within an organization. Make sure everyone knows what you’ve accomplished so when they do mention you, what they say is accurate.

Myth #3: If your boss likes the work you do, he’ll give you a great review and raise. Therefore, worrying about what other people think is irrelevant.

Your boss loves you. Your projects are flawless and always completed on time and under budget. You’re so dedicated to the mission of your department that you focus on it obsessively and prioritize your team’s goals over requests that come from other areas of the company. Those requests for help are just a distraction from the important work of achieving your team’s goals. You are convinced that this single-minded dedication will be recognized at review time. VP title, here we come!

Myth #3 busted: In some companies that kind of behavior may get you a promotion, but in larger firms to win advancement more than your boss's perspective is often required.

At big companies, there are usually checks and balances to ensure consistent and equitable standards for ratings and promotions across the firm. It’s common for committees to review requests for above-average ratings and promotions. Your boss’s word alone may not be enough to make it through the committee if no one else knows you or is familiar with your achievements. So, it’s important to make a conscious effort to build a positive reputation outside of your department so that others can speak for the quality of your work and character. Looking at the big picture and being collaborative could earn you the goodwill required to win a promotion, raise or larger bonus.

So, there you have it. To get ahead and have more fun at work, replace the three myths above with these three guiding truths:
  1. Work hard AND have fun with your co-workers. Relationships are important because people like to work with people they know, like and trust. Let yourself be known.

  2. If you’re doing great work, tell people. Ask your boss how she’d like to be kept informed of your accomplishments. If other people give you positive feedback, ask them to put it in an email to you and copy your boss.

  3. Prioritize getting your team’s work done on time, but don’t ignore requests for help from co-workers. Through collaboration and a positive attitude, you’ll cultivate fans within your organization so that when your leadership asks who the rockstars are, everyone will say, YOU!

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© 2018 Terry B. McDougall