Self-Sabotage: 3 Ways We Get in Our Own Way

There are plenty of things that make your role as leader difficult – troublesome employees, small budgets, technology problems, demanding customers. But, if you’re having problems within your company and you’re having trouble pin-pointing the cause, there might be one other place you should look. Try taking a good look in the mirror, because sometimes the problem is actually you.

Nothing is more damaging, or frustrating, than when you get in your own way. So check out these three forms of self-sabotage and make sure you aren’t behind your workplace woes.

Avoiding Taking Responsibility
Admitting you were wrong, taking responsibility, and apologizing is hard for anyone to do, and it can be especially difficult for leaders because there often people who look to them for guidance. Your reputation is a valuable asset.  Not taking responsibility for your own actions is one of the biggest forms of self-sabotage and could have a significant impact on how you are viewed as a leader.

In an article in Forbes, contributing author Erika Anderson explains, “Apologizing freely requires a good deal of courage. It’s not comfortable for any of us to admit an error, or to acknowledge that something we’ve done has caused others harm or inconvenience.” However the consequences of being courageous and honest are actually usually positive. “When someone truly apologizes, we know he or she is putting honesty and honor above personal comfort or self-protection.  It’s inspiring, and it feels brave.” And generally employees, customers, and the public respond quite well to brave, inspirational leaders.

Not Standing Up
Similarly, leaders who fail to stand up for what’s right, best for their team, or in the best interests of the business are severely damaging their reputation and influence. Most leaders have others, who are higher up, that they have to answer to, from top executives to share holders. And that can often place you in uncomfortable positions.

But, the reality is that, as another Forbes article reveals, Leaders that don’t stand up for what they believe in are difficult to respect and trust. Too many leaders today battle the gulf between assimilation and authenticity.” That, in turn, causes more problems as “it becomes a challenge (for others) to trust their judgment, self-confidence, self-awareness and overall capabilities.”

Giving Advice Too Quickly
Another type of self-sabotage that is easy to slip into is spoon-feeding your employees. In an article for Inc. magazine, Jay Steinfeld, founder and CEO of and advocate for amazing (and profitable) company culture, explains “many bosses do more harm than good by not encouraging a culture where employees self-evaluate and think for themselves. When employees need help, rather than just give them the answer, it’s better to ask them to propose solutions. Then try to understand how they came up with those proposals.”

Whether giving advice too quickly stems from a sincere desire to help others or a need to control, it’s doing more harm than good. You’re not only sabotaging your own efforts and leadership position, you’re also sabotaging your employees’ and company’s future growth and performance. Successful businesses need workers who can think for themselves, and employees can’t gain that ability until they’re allowed the opportunity to do their own thinking.

You’ve worked hard to get where you’re at today, so don’t let your own actions sabotage your career. Take an honest look at yourself and see if you are getting in your way. All that might be needed to get you back on track is some slight attitude and behavior changes.

How have you self-sabotaged your career? What behaviors from leaders often seem to be counter-productive? Share your experiences with us below.

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