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3 Bad Habits That Can Get You Promoted (and What to Do Instead)

Topics: Career Advice
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You might think that the ideal employee is the one without any vices. Then, you look at who’s getting promoted.

The sad truth is, some bad habits can be an advantage when it comes to getting ahead at work. But that doesn’t mean you have to change for the worse.

Just be aware of the hidden virtues in these vices and you’ll be able to get the good stuff — without wrecking your health or destroying your work-life balance.

1. Smoke-break networking

I once worked at a small office where I was the only non-smoker (most of us were in our mid-twenties or younger). While I abstained, many of my coworkers would go out and have a smoke together.

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I never regretted not smoking with them, but the three-and-a-half minutes they spent out on the fire escape was a time where gossip was shared, plans were made for after-work hangouts and general friendships were fostered far away from the boss or our cubicles. Heck, this kind of networking even made it into a plot-point on Friends!

sad rachel

So what can you do (besides taking up smoking)? Try to find time to relax with colleagues away from the boardroom. Join in after-work gatherings, even if they seem cheesy. Go out for a drink or coffee when invited. Go to see that stupid movie together. You don’t have to be best friends with your coworkers, but having some personal ties to each other can often help open doors.

2. Working late every day

There’s always one coworker who makes it a point of never leaving until after everyone else goes home. Maybe they just wait until the boss has split, then they make their way out, only to return mere minutes before the boss arrives in the morning. This strategy certainly works in the theater (video), but does it work in real life?

First, let’s look at why it’s a bad habit. Shouldn’t dedication be a good thing? In theory, yes. But in reality, having some work-life balance is key to a good mental state. If you’re constantly adjusting your own schedule just to look good in front of the boss, you’re letting work get the upper hand.

Being a good team player is one thing, but skipping your family dinner every night isn’t going to make things pleasant at home. Plus, it puts you at risk for burnout. You can’t be a good employee if you’re stressed and unhappy.

If you’re working on a big project for an important client, by all means, burn that midnight oil, but being there outside of normal work hours just to make some kind of impression isn’t a great habit.

Bosses look for effort and punctuality. So, be on time and don’t shirk your duties, kid.

3. Volunteering every time

Volunteering for every task, no matter what it is, can get someone labeled a “teacher’s pet” in school, but in the office, it sometimes does lead to promotions … but at what cost?

When you take on tasks that are out of your job title’s scope, or neglect to delegate work that should be either shared or is better suited to another role, then you’re doing yourself and the company a disservice. The best person for the job should be doing the work they’re best suited for. In fact, saying “no” can be an even better way to get promoted.

“Mentoring and coaching other people to take on new tasks demonstrates that you have leadership skills,” points out Laura Vanderkam at Fast Company.

So, don’t go it alone. Instead, work with your team to divide up the work, and get points for delegating and collaborating. After all, if you do get promoted, you’ll have to work with others to keep the wheels spinning.


What “bad” habits put you on the path to promotion? How would you make them better? We want to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

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