Survey reveals the top 5 career killers

17th May 2016

A recent study has shown just how damaging we can be to our own careers. Whether it’s one huge (and silly) lapse in judgement or a number of little things that build up over time, being mindful and staying aware will help you keep control of your career before it’s too late.

Conducted by VitalSmart‘s co-founders, Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield, the survey revealed that 83 per cent of employees have witnessed their colleagues say something that has had catastrophic results on their careers, reputations and businesses. With 69 per cent admitting to personally committing a catastrophic comment.

The research also uncovered the top five most catastrophic comments people made:

  • Suicide by Feedback (23 per cent): You thought others could handle the truth – but they didn’t.
  • Gossip Karma (21 per cent): You talked about someone or something in confidence with a colleague only to have your damning comments made public.
  • Taboo Topics (20 per cent). You said something about race, sex, politics or religion and others distorted it, misunderstood it, took it wrong, used it against you, etc.
  • Word Rage (20 per cent). You lost your temper and used profanity or obscenities to make your point.
  • “Reply All” Blunders (10 per cent). You accidentally shared something harmful via technology (email, text, virtual meeting tools, etc).
  • Other (6 per cent). All other uncouth and/or unfortunate comments.

The online poll of 780 employees shows just how damaging these slips of the tongue and momentary lapses of judgment can be on an individual’s career:

  • 31 per cent said it cost them a pay increase, a promotion or their job.
  • 27 per cent said it undercut or destroyed the working relationship.
  • 11 per cent said it destroyed their reputation.

Maxfield says that while putting your foot in your mouth is easy to do, recovering from verbal mistakes actually takes skill. In fact, the data shows that more than one in four people (27 percent) lack the skills to smooth things over and only one in five are extremely confident in their ability to fix mistakes.

“It’s no surprise these catastrophic comments happen,” he comments. “We’re all bound to have bad days, misjudge the situation or make a slip of the tongue. What is most concerning is our inability to recover in a way that actually repairs – rather than harms – relationships and careers.”

Grenny and Maxfield offer three tips to recover from catastrophic comments in a way that saves careers, improves relationships and secures results.

  • The blunder: You said something that was just wrong, rude or completely inappropriate.
    What’s required: A clear, unrestrained apology. The bandage needs to be as large as the wound. If you aired your colorful disgust for your boss, a simple “I’m sorry” won’t cut it. Others need to hear an apology as intense as their disgust for you at the moment.
  • The blunder: You said something that was right, but it came across wrong.What’s required: While more complex, the apology must still match the fervor of the upset. You have three tasks: 1) Acknowledge that your message sounded as offensive as others took it to be. And don’t move to step two until they’re satisfied. 2) Say what you really think on the topic in the way you should have said it. 3) Repeat step one.
  • The blunder: You said something you believe, but that you shouldn’t have said in your position.
    What’s required: Again, you must apologise. If you stated an opinion that is not the opinion of your company, then you must apologise as though you don’t believe what you said. This could sound disingenuous, but it’s not. It isn’t “you” that’s apologising, it’s your position. So your apology is righting the real wrong – your irresponsible lapse of judgment in realising you don’t get to represent your company in any way you see fit.

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