The 7 Deadly Career Sins

Barbara Pachter Career Manners & Matters


A colleague of mine told me that she had to fire one of her employees since he hadn’t shown any initiative in her fast paced, creative work environment.

I thought about this for a moment and responded that he committed one of the Workers’ Seven Deadly Sins—the work traits that get employees ignored, not promoted or even fired.

In today’s highly competitive workplace, you want to be seen as a valuable and vital employee. You want to become someone with whom others want to work. Ask yourself if you exhibit any of the boldface traits below, and resolve to eliminate them if you do:

1. Not showing initiative. Are you trying new or better ways to accomplish your work? Be proactive. Is your employer gaining anything extra from you? As my colleague’s employee found out, most employers want you to go above and beyond.

2. Paying little attention to details. Are there mistakes in your work? Notice the little things, proof your writings and double check any numbers. There can be consequences if you don’t. One engineer wrote the wrong house number on a work order and his employees ripped up the wrong driveway.

3. Not offering to help. You need to do your own work, but you also, whenever possible, need to offer to help others. You come across as a team placer when you do—somebody others want to work with. Plus, you may learn new skills and meet new people. Added benefits!

4. Not staying current with changes in your profession. You don’t want to be left behind. Continue learning. Stay abreast of any trends in your field. Take advantage of any training your company offers. Stay up-to-date with technology, including social media.

5. Not connecting with others. People don’t like to work with others that ignore them. Smile. Make an effort to say “hello” “good morning,” etc. to people that you know and don’t know.

6. Not conveying enthusiasm for your job. Show interest in your work. Be eager to get the job done. Arrive on time or early. Stay late when necessary. Give sincere compliments. Speak well of others, avoid downbeat topics and stop complaining. Don’t criticize your employer, boss or co-workers on your social media sites.

7. Not having a professional demeanor. You want to convey a confident and credible image. Be aware of your verbal and nonverbal communication. Are you speaking too softly or loudly? Are you dressing appropriately for your position? Do you use filler words (“ok,” “alright,” “like”) that take away from your comments?

More information can be found in The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success (McGraw-Hill, 2013).