Character flaws that can ruin a career

She had everything going for her: technical genius, ambition, a solid employer and a manager who wanted to help her career…. She also had one other thing; a character flaw that would be her undoing. Watching from a distance, it looked like a slow motion waltz off the corporate cliff. She was warned. She was coached. In the end, she just didn’t think character counted as much as competence. She was wrong.

We all have our own character flaws. The deciding factor is our willingness to work on them. Here are a few troublesome behaviors that can cause your career to tumble.

§      Arrogance

Arrogance blocks your hearing and your vision. You stop listening to others around you and insist that you are always right. You’re so busy admiring your genius in the mirror, that you don’t see reality closing in all around you. Take the case of the entrepreneur who thought that his online business model was going to make him the next Bill Gates. He was convinced that his idea was brilliant, and it was, for awhile. He refused to listen to employees who were trying to give him input about how to improve the product to meet the changing demands of customers. He was taken completely by surprise when a big dot com moved into his market and squashed his business overnight.

§      Self-Importance

Take the case of the business owner who acted like a member of royalty. As he was building his business, he worked long hours and kept his hand in every detail. A few years later, he began to have some success. His bank account grew and he hired employees to help him. His business was named one of the fastest growing in his community. That was the beginning of the end. He assumed a lavish lifestyle; he had memberships at all the right clubs and hung out with like-minded friends. Meanwhile his industry was changing but he was too self-absorbed to notice. His executive team was waving a red flag but he didn’t want to see it. When the company folded, it took hundreds down with it.

In another case, a bright computer technician was so abrupt and impatient with his colleagues that his manager stopped assigning him to projects with high visibility. The technician was so convinced of his own superior intelligence and competence, he barely masked his contempt for the lesser creatures around him. His project list got narrower and smaller until his manager couldn’t justify keeping him at all.

§      Explosiveness

When you work for a manager with a hair trigger it makes you cautious and compliant. You withhold bad news. You tip toe around the truth. Managers who rant and rave usually underestimate the damage they cause to themselves and others. They become cut off from looming problems and are often surprised when bad things happen. These are the same managers who complain that their employees are a "bunch of sheep who can’t make decisions," and as a result, their businesses often reach a plateau and fail to thrive.

§      Lack of Integrity

This one usually takes awhile to show up but eventually it will. These folks always seem to manipulate the situation so it benefits them. They twist the truth, undermine others to make themselves look good and bend the rules for their own gain. Take the case of the consultant who charged different fees, depending on the depth of the pockets of his clients. He used other consultants’ research and put his name on it and then had the audacity to badmouth the consultant he stole from. In the end, the word got around and the consultant had to pack up his tent and move on.

§      Lack of accountability

When I watch someone avoiding responsibility it gives me the image of pushing a rope. The rope just twists and turns and, in the end, it just lays there. The person doing the pushing is worn out from all the fruitless effort. People who don’t accept accountability are head-nodders. They smile and sometime even write things down, as if they are actually going to take action, but they seldom follow through. People around them get worn down with all the energy it takes to remind them, nag, and finally demand that decisions get made. These are the well-intentioned members of the task force who don’t do their part and sales staff who don’t call the customer back when there is a problem. They are maddening. Their inaction eventually does them in.

What is your character flaw? If you don’t think you have any, go back to first bullet point. The important thing is what you are doing about it.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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