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What’s Holding You Back at Work? How Small Things Have a Big Impact By Anita Bruzzese freelance writer on topics related to workplace & career issues

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You may believe that hard work alone is enough to move ahead in the workplace, but it’s often the small things that can hold you back. While your boss may not say it outright because he or she fears legal action or just isn’t comfortable discussing the subject, that wrinkled old pair of slacks you wear four days a week, tattered at the bottom from sweeping the floor, just doesn’t make a good impression. After all, how can your boss offer you a big project when they fear you’ll meet with important clients wearing such hideous attire? Or, maybe your continual conversations about all the details of your personal life make them leery of offering you a promotion. The boss may worry about putting you in charge when others are embarrassed or fed up with hearing details of your hernia operation or very personal extra-curricular activities. Are you clueless about how you’re unwittingly hurting your career? Here are some things of which you want to be aware:

1. Dress appropriately at all times. If you can wear it to mow the lawn, to go to a dance club, or wear it to sleep in, you should never wear it to work (even if it’s a casual work day). One note to women: Cleavage is never appropriate at work. If you can see your cleavage when you look down, so can everyone else.

2. Watch how you sit. Women have a tendency to tuck their feet into their chair, while men will throw their legs out in front of them as if they’re claiming their territory. Follow your great aunt’s advice and sit up straight and don’t fidget.

3. Clean up your speech pattern. There’s no greater wake-up call than recording yourself having a phone conversation. If your speech pattern is full of “likes” (“It’s like, you know, like I can’t find my report”) or upspeak (“I can’t find my report? So I’ll be late?”) then you’ve got some work to do. Also work to eliminate “uh’s” or “you knows.” Talking like a teenager isn’t going to help the boss see you as promotion material.

4. Don’t have a messy space. While it’s not necessary to have a pristine work space that would pass a health department inspection, having piles of papers, old coffee cups and a blizzard of Post-It covering your cubicle does not reassure the boss that you’re organized and ready to take on new challenges. For many bosses, a messy space equals a messy mind.


5. Try not to be a social-media dummy. While your boss may not have any formal social media policy, he or she is aware when you’re posting nonwork related items during business hours and behaving less-than-professionally after hours. Even if your boss is very flexible with expectations of online behavior, you still want to maintain an aura of professionalism. In other words, you should make sure your behavior online could stand up to the scrutiny of your boss, your mom, your CEO and maybe even Mother Theresa.

6. Your cell phone should not be a security blanket. Holding your phone at all times, going to the bathroom with it and being glued to it during meetings does not reassure the boss that you’re capable of interacting well with others in person. One of the biggest complaints by managers is that employees don’t have enough interpersonal skills. Focus on eye contact and in-person communications, rather than your iPhone.

For more tips and insight, as well as the latest academic jobs visit the Wiley Job Network.


What’s Holding You Back at Work?