The absolute worst personality traits that could be holding you back from a promotion in your career

Promotions can be a magical thing. Not only do you get more opportunity but you also get that sweet, sweet pay raise. People work hard for promotions. Sometimes folks get them that don’t deserve them, but either way it’s still a fun feeling to receive one. However, some people are ruining their chances of a promotion – without even knowing it. We’re not talking about breaking the law or calling your boss a terrible name at a company meeting. There are many subtle ways we’re self-sabotaging through harmful personality traits. 

If you want a career filled with meaningful promotions (and the extra money that comes with it), make sure you remove these traits from your personality.


Worst personality traits if you want a promotion: laziness

It may sound obvious, but many people are accidentally being lazy at work. And even if you aren’t a lazy person, you could be giving off lazy vibes. If you’re looking for a promotion, laziness is one of the worst personality traits you can have because it indicates that you can’t handle more responsibility (even if that’s not true). 

If you think you’re doing a great job but things still aren’t working out for you, make sure you’re not:

  • Showing up late (even by five minutes)
  • Never being the first to respond to someone asking for help
  • Using body language to indicate laziness or disaffectedness – slumping, groaning, or rolling your eyes

Don’t let these personality traits hold you back!


Worst personality traits if you want a promotion: helplessness

As the saying goes: it’s okay to need help, it’s not ok to be helpless. The difference between needing help and being helpless is your actions. If you’ve tried a bunch of things and it’s not working, you need help. If you come up to a problem and give up, expecting someone to solve it for you or tell you what to do, that’s helplessness. When it comes to promotion time, decision makers are looking for people who can solve problems on their feet. The helpless need not apply. 

If you’re worried that you’re coming across as helpless (even when you are trying to solve your own problems), the first thing to change is how you document and communicate what you’ve done. Every solution you try, document what you did and what the outcome was. Also keep notes of what kind of research you’ve done so you know what knowledge you’ve sought out (sometimes it’s just a matter of not asking the right question). That way, when you go for help you can start with “this is what I’ve tried and it’s not working – can you help me?” instead of “I have this problem, please help me”.


there are two kinds of anything: perfect and complete. choose one

Most job descriptions will say they want someone detail oriented or something similar. It’s a very good personality trait for employees to have. However, being a perfectionist is one of the personality traits that may be holding you back. When you’re a perfectionist, nothing is good enough. You’re always tweaking and changing. This can be beneficial, but it becomes a major problem when you stop delivering because you’re too focused on perfecting

If you’re the type of person who is brilliant at what you do but can’t get your work done fast enough, you may have some perfectionist tendencies to work out. Remember, there are two kinds of anything: perfect and complete. You can only choose one. In the business world, you have to be detail oriented and a perfectionist, but only to a point – sooner rather than later, you’ll need to deliver a completed project. 

Being too passive

if you're too passive, you'll never get what you want

Some people get tapped on the shoulder for a promotion, seemingly out of thin air. They aren’t seen to be campaigning for anything… it just happens. Right? Wrong. Whether or not you see it, that person demonstrated they wanted a promotion via their words and actions. The cool part is that it’s not hard to demonstrate what you want. If you want a promotion, you can make this known to your manager or boss. Be up front with them about what you want, why you want it (where it fits in your career goals), and then ask them what you need to demonstrate in order to earn the promotion. 

If you’re too passive – that is, you take life as it comes and never ask for anything specifically – you risk always being passed up for promotions. Sure, you may end up with cool experiences along the way. It’s not a bad idea to be passive in some ways. But if you never ask for what you want, you won’t ever get it. 

Being overly aggressive

Worst personality traits if you want a promotion: being too aggressive

The flip side of being too passive, being too aggressive is one of the personality traits that could be holding you back. Aggression is the extreme end of excitement or drive, so it can initially appear as someone being really devoted to their work. However, it can end up causing some major problems, including:

  • Damaged coworker relationships
  • Inability to work on a team
  • Inability to deliver work that can’t be done alone
  • Personal mental health issues 

If you’re a more hot-headed type of person, that’s not necessarily a horrible thing. People with fire inside of them can get a lot of things done and be very motivational. The key is to not let that passion and fire turn into a weapon that hurts other people. Paying attention to other personality styles – including more passive, quiet people – is necessary to ensure you can play on a team. As the saying goes: if you want to go fast, then you can probably do it alone. But if you want to go far, you need other people. 

Being too curious and gossiping

pay attention to your own work, not other people

This may sound off, since curiosity is one of the personality traits that leads to innovation. However, being too curious – to borrow the British definition of the word – is when you pay so much attention to everyone else that you forget to do your own job. Or, worse, you don’t do it well and you’re seen as someone who delivers low quality work. 

It can be tempting to gossip at work (nearly a quarter of employees report regularly gossiping at work), focusing too much on other people’s jobs, lives, and work means less mental energy for your own work. So if you’re a naturally curious person, channel that mental energy into curiosity for every element of your job. You’ll produce better work, spend less time worrying about your colleagues, and show the higher ups at your organization that you aren’t the type to get stuck in idle chatter. 

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