CLMs: The Career-Limiting Moves that many people make

By Colleen Clarke

Career-Limiting Moves“Like, I was, like, going to like, register for like, a like, course, to like take….” This is an honest to God sentence I heard at my gym this morning. The woman was in her early twenties, and she was working with a trainer who costs about $60 an hour. She must have a job and some money to afford the gym, expensive workout clothes and a trainer. But who does she work for? How can one get, let alone sustain, a job in this market where education reigns supreme and ones’ ability to communicate is paramount.

If you haven’t already guessed, it was her use of the word ‘like’ over and over again in every sentence that I found so irritating. Whether you are embarking on a summer job search or job hunting because you’re ready to move up, it’s a good idea to ‘hold the mirror’ to your own interactions with others and take a look at how you might be perceived.

In my Respect in the Workplace workshops participants have identified these behaviors as annoying, disrespectful and promotion busters:

  • Eating other peoples’ food out of the fridge
  • Leaving your dirty lunch dishes/cups on the counter or in the sink
  • Borrowing office supplies from someone’s desk without asking and not returning them
  • Interrupting someone who is on the phone because you think your needs are greater than theirs in that moment
  • Eating at someone else’s desk and leaving remnants of food
  • Chewing with your mouth open
  • Talking to me while I am on the phone and offering ideas for my conversation
  • Barging into a workspace or starting a phone conversation without asking, “Is this a good time?”
  • Women wearing low cut tops which leave nothing to the imagination
  • Flip flopping or shuffling through the office in beach shoe wear; a double whammy is unpedicured feet
  • Dirty clothing
  • Too much cologne or after shave and body odor and bad breath
  • Not getting to the point, rambling on and on
  • Gossip
  • Negativity
  • Whispering
  • Using an outside voice, inside
  • Speaking a foreign language in an English speaking environment
  • Monopolizing a conversation…Representing ‘Me Inc.’ all the time
  • Rude, crude language or dirty jokes
  • Squeaky bodily functions
  • Aggressively expressing personal preferences of religion and politics on others
  • Always asking for donations to kids’ fundraisers, marathons or service club programs
  • Sneezing without covering your mouth
  • Putting people down using humour
  • Having no sense of humour
  • Not responding to emails or voice mail in a timely manner
  • Asking for an opinion or advice but never taking it
  • Repeatedly poor spelling and grammar in emails
  • Using slang and words like ‘crap’ or ‘thingy’ (or as I mentioned, peppering every sentence with ‘like.’)
  • Not doing what you say you are going to do when you say you will do it

The bottom line is, just because certain behaviour doesn’t bother you doesn’t mean it is appropriate. If you work with someone whose behaviour is problematic to you, either speak to the person and make them aware of what they are doing and how it makes you feel, or learn to live with it. If you choose to confront the person try using this non threatening script:

    When you…
    I feel …
    (Because)… not always necessary to use this sentence
    So I’d appreciate if you would…

There is no guarantee of what will result but at least you have been heard, just make sure you aren’t part of the problem.

Colleen Clarke
Career Specialist and Corporate Trainer
Author of Networking: How to Build Relationships That Count and How to Get a Job and Keep It

12 Responses to “CLMs: The Career-Limiting Moves that many people make”

  1. So the secret to not limiting yourself career wise is basically good manners, hygiene and adhering to an appropriate dress code?

    I’m not trying to criticize, but isn’t this common sense? These actions limit not only a professional standpoint, but a social one as well.

    I will adhere to the belief that spelling and grammar should be used properly. It’s irritating to have to decipher what someone is trying to say because they are using words that they are unfamiliar with spelling. The constant addition of the word ‘like’ is, likewise, irritating, as are the interjections ‘um,’ and ‘er.’ One should be sure of what he is going to say before trying to communicate.

    I also agree with the use of language, but this is not only a professional limitation, but a safety issue as well. Unfamiliarity with the use or understanding of English has led to a few altercations on a worksite, and has nearly jeopardized a few lives of co-workers. Even in a menial task, if someone cannot clearly understand or communicate English on a site where the primary language is English puts lives in danger; having an interpreter is also not a safe action unless that person is glued to them throughout the day. (An example of the dangers of language ignorance- designating a ’spotter’ who has a limited grasp of English. When the co-worker asked the spotter if it was safe to proceed, the spotter nodded. He walked into an area where the spotter’s partner was tossing construction refuse off a second story floor and was nearly struck with box filled with garbage. My co-worker angrily marched to the spotter and demanded why he was permitted to walk across the area as the spotter’s co-worker was tossing garbage; it was later explained that the spotter didn’t speak English and, therefore, did not understand the question.) However, the bodily functions should not be included in this list of professional taboos, as they are a biological reaction and normally out of the control of the offender; what should be included is how the violator reacts to them. Not providing common courtesy or trying to shift the blame is a good way to make those around you loathe being near you.

    In addition, having flatulence that is so strong that it clears a room faster than a Yanni overture and laughing about other peoples’ disgust also makes others give the violator a wide berth; this action is intensified when the violator is able to control their bodily functions to the point that they can force a function to maximize the discomfort of those around them (i.e.- on a packed elevator.)

  2. RockOut says:

    Not following through with promises, leaving messes & expecting others to pick up after them, poor hygiene and appearance because they are just too darned busy, gossiping, rambling?

    This article has just described the behavior of every single supervisor and manager at mid to large companies.

    This is just advice not to stand out from your cube neighbors so they don’t provide negative feedback about you. Otherwise, it’s game on!

  3. Temp O'Rary says:

    @M. Jason Doty: Common sense is not as common as you would have us believe. There are several examples of overpowering body scents (perfume/cologne as well as body odour) within smelling distance of my office.

  4. Dave says:

    Anyone naive to actually believe this list is going to be horribly surprised when they find people in positions above them how engage in such odious personal habits. I wonder if the author is just trying to justify their dislike of such behavlours by trying hard to believe that anyone who acts in such ways will not be promoted, but I’ve been around too long, in too many offices, and seen far too many things to believe that that is actually the case.

    It’s surprising what some people can actually get away with and still get promoted, as long as they are able to convince the person who can get them promoted that they are the best person they WILL be promoted in spite of how much other might be shocked.

  5. Anon says:

    There are one or two things that I don’t agree with on this list. The first is “Asking for an opinion or advice but never taking it”. It might be annoying, but is it not a person’s choice whether or not or follow someone else’s advice, whether for good or ill? Maybe the advice giver just gives really bad advice. I know someone like that, who gives stupid advice (all the time I might add) and then becomes insulted when someone shoots their ideas down. If people choose not to take your advice, that is their choice and unless you have a personal or professional stake in the results, let it go.

    The second is “Aggressively expressing personal preferences of religion and politics on others”. I guess that would depend on how you define “aggressive” and what the preferences of that particular person are. I find that people tend to react unfavorably in a professional environment to any views that are not considered politically correct and people that express these views without concession are often labeled as “aggressive” or “hostile”. But once again, a person’s beliefs are their choices, and if they decide to defend their choices, then they are allow to do so by the laws that govern this country.

    For example, a close friend of mine who is a Protestant Christian and works in a small accounting firm, was involved in an incident that very nearly ended up with him quitting his job. Once while at lunch, he listened to a senior accountant in the firm talk with another about abortion vs. pro-life. The topic came up while the senior accoutant was reading a newspaper. She used the words “backwards”, “ridiculous”, “disrespectful” and “stupid” to describe a recent peaceful pro-life protest against abortion laws, which my friend had been a part of. My friend turned to her and told her flat out that the belief that abortion is wrong is not any of those things and that he took her remarks personally and expected an apology, which she refused to deliver and then both senior accountants began to argue with him. After a debate of about 20 minutes, during which my friend never became aggressive or violent, the senior accountants left and complained to my friend’s supervisor. My friend!
    came up for possible disciplinary action because he expressed his views in defense of what he thought was right! But since there were several witnesses to the incident who painted a favorable picture of him the disciplinary action was dropped. The two senior accountants never apologized for their comments and continue to treat my friend with disdain.

    This is just one example, but I’m sure there are others who speak up in defense of their beliefs and are berated for it because they aren’t politically correct. The modern professional workplace is very anti-Christian. No one complained about the senior accountants’ hostility against my friend. Is it fair that people who defend their beliefs against outrageous comments get labelled as “aggressive”? No, it is not. People shouldn’t have to bite their tongues just because one view gets the stamp of “Workplace Safe” and the other does not.

  6. jmm says:

    Anon your “friend” exhibited the same behaviour that the senior accountant consequently the two wrongs theory applies in this situation. If your friend did not like the conversation he could have chosen to not listen or leave the vicinity or just ignore what was said.

  7. Vlad says:

    “Speaking a foreign language in an English speaking environment”

    In a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society like ours? I contend that no language is “foreign” in Canada and conversations that don’t concern others can be freely conducted in any language involved parties agree on and are most comfortable with. If the conversation is not conflicting with an ongoing communication and it’s not about me or something I should be informed of I couldn’t care less about which language it’s conducted on. Eavesdropping is rude.

  8. @ M. Jason Doty: So what I think you are trying to say is that people should speak and understand the language of the workplace, and there should be no deliberate gas.

  9. Mircoe says:

    I totally agree with Vlad. If the conversation doesn’t involve me feel free to speak in whatever language you’d like.

  10. Blair says:

    Having worked in offices where there were many people who spoke languages other than English, I can say that it can make anyone who does not speak that language feel extremely marginalized and unwelcome. I’ve had my manager, supervisor, and handfuls of other workers start chatting up a storm in some other language, quietly enough that it seemed like gossip, but loud enough to know they were talking. It makes the minority of people who don’t speak that language in the same room (not the lunch room – the OFFICE WORK AREA) feel like you are talking about them.

    You answer a personal call and speak in another language? Your business. You’re in the lunch room and having a personal conversation? Your business. But please don’t stand beside my desk and chat another worker up in some language I don’t know in order to exclude me. I have to assume it’s something I shouldn’t hear – in which case, it shouldn’t be happening within earshot. It’s distracting and unprofessional.

    And I agree that these behaviors never get anyone fired. And if you complain about any of this stuff, you’re a trouble maker complainer and you get added to the watch list. You just have to choose what to make a stand on.
    For me, it was the hypocrisy of not allowing fragrances but allowing people to heat up smelly lunch meals (especially fish, that was a bad offender) and bring them into the cubicle area so that the whole office smelled of that for the rest of the day – even though we had paid lunches and a lunch room to eat in. I tried to ask that the lunch room door be closed when I sat next to it, and that stuck around, but the higher ups didn’t want to “open the can of worms” that would be telling people what they could or couldn’t eat at their desks.

    I don’t think anyone should sit around bashing political beliefs – even in the lunch room.
    That said, I don’t think tolerant political views should be chastised if they are expressed. I’ve heard several remarks that were anti-abortion, anti-gay, racist, sexist, etc… It is hurtful to people who believe in those rights and freedoms. If I stand up against that, am I a majority bigot because my beliefs are PC?

    For the record – I almost never add myself to a discussion like that. Even if it would be to counter a statement that someone made. I find it’s not worth the discussion because people have their minds made up about things and just get annoyed when you disagree. In the workplace, it’s not really important or relevant. You have a belief? That’s great, but it’s not relevant to the work. I don’t need to know about your religion and you don’t need to know about mine. I think it’s unprofessional to discuss that kind of thing at work at all, no matter your belief. Fact is, someone will always disagree with you or judge you for those beliefs or political stances. So why bring it up?

  11. Steve says:

    Basically, don’t ever say anything that might piss somebody off (no matter how innocuous it may seem); be as vanilla and plain as you can possibly be; and don’t ever attract attention to yourself (unless it’s your “superiors” who think you did a good job).

    Do all this and you will probably rocket to the top of the C-suite, where you can give yourself lots of fat perks and an overblown salary.

    What a world we live in. God help us.

  12. Elaine says:

    Dirty jokes and lewd language come with the clientele and environment I work in. Working with street entrenched and hard to house is our environment and we use it professionally and accordingly. It really depends on the work environment and there are limits.

    Regarding the “like” twenty something at the gym, an assumption is made she is employed. She could be residing at home with parent’s and their funds. An annoying thing for me is “assumptions” without knowing the full picture.


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