9 Toxic Behaviors and How to Avoid Them

Anybody can reach for the stars but only the people who stay grounded grasp them.
9 Toxic Behaviors and How to Avoid Them
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If I could get you people to do one thing differently, it would be to quit obsessing over every little thing you read online and focus on what really matters. I know, it’s not always easy to tell the difference between click-bate and sound career advice, but to be successful you will have to learn how, nevertheless.

One thing I can tell you with great certainty, you’re not going to become rich and famous by following anyone’s productivity hacks or personal habits. And being a procrastinator, a disorganized slob, a multitasker, a perfectionist or a night person is not going to make or break your career.

Not only don’t little things matter, you’ve probably heard what does matter a thousand times: hard work, personal accountability and smart decisions. What you probably haven’t heard much about, however, is self-destructive behavior that all-too-often claims the careers of aspiring executives and business leaders.

If you want to make it big, here are the nine toxic behaviors to avoid. Some are tricky, so pay attention.

1. Attention-seeking

We’ve seen countless examples of entrepreneurs and executives letting their narcissistic tendencies get the better of them and shooting themselves in the foot. That’s how AppSumo.com founder Noah Kagan got himself fired from Facebook, an event he calls a $100 million lesson. If you’re going to get fired, make sure it’s for pushing the envelope, not your own dysfunctional tendencies.

Related: Travis Kalanick to Take a Leave of Absence. Here Are 9 CEOs Who Were Fired or Decided to Step Down.

2. Groupthink

Cultural norms have a place in this world: They maintain the status quo. But leadership in business is about disrupting the status quo, not following it. When everyone is marching in lockstep to the same drumbeat, it’s a good idea to question it. That’s called critical thinking. It’s the opposite of groupthink. As I always say, nobody ever made it big by doing what everyone else is doing.

3. Disingenuous

On the job training is so prevalent that all successful leaders find themselves in over their heads, once in a while. That doesn’t mean you should fabricate your resume or a create an online persona that bears no resemblance to reality. No matter what anyone says, fake it ‘til you make it is not a viable career strategy. Have the courage to be genuine.

Related: 5 Pieces of Common Startup Advice That Do More Harm Than Good

4. Hubris

Even when self-confidence is justified, it can still be a double-edged sword. It’s one thing to have faith in yourself; it’s another thing entirely to think you’re some sort of superhero who can do no wrong. Even if you have extensive experience and talent, it’s important to know what you don’t know. Success can be its own worst enemy.

5. CYA

We all got to witness an extreme example of bureaucratic behavior from former FBI director James Comey last week. President Trump asked for his loyalty, so what did he do? He went off and documented every conversation -- through his own subjective lens, of course -- and leaked it to the press. Instead of covering his behind, he got his butt fired. Not very bright.

Related: 10 Stupid Things Bosses Say When They Fire People

6. Passive aggressive

If you find yourself telling people what you think they want to hear and then doing the opposite, that’s called passive aggressive behavior. It’s incredibly destructive to an organization to have some people supposedly going along with the plan, only to go behind everyone’s back to unravel it. That kind of behavior will come back to bite you in the end.  

7. Zero-sum

When you’re interviewing for a job or trying to win a sale, there’s usually one winner and lots of losers. That’s called a zero-sum game. But the workplace is not a zero-sum game and neither are relationships with coworkers. They’re not adversarial. Everyone should be working toward the same goals. If not, the organization is dysfunctional, which is usually a leadership problem.  

8. Fiscally frivolous

Most entrepreneurs are great at what they love to do, but when it comes to the business of finance, their eyes glass over. That’s probably why most businesses fail by running out of cash. The same is true of most people and their personal finances. If you can’t read an income statement or a balance sheet, you have no business running a company. Or even your own family’s finances, for that matter.

Related: 11 Ways To Be Frugal Now So You're Rich Later

9. Breaking the law.

Sometimes you have to push the envelope to get things done, but it can be a slippery slope from breaking the rules to breaking the law. When companies are overly bureaucratic or bosses are too controlling, it’s OK to say screw the rules and take the initiative. Getting fired isn’t a crime, as long as you don’t take it too far and end up in a minimum-security prison cell.

There are plenty more, but that’s a pretty good start. In case you didn’t notice, the common thread with destructive behavior is that it usually starts out positive, then we take it too far. The key is knowing when to stop. How do you do that? Balance. It’s OK to reach for the stars, as long as you stay grounded. 

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