Are You Sending Your Employer the Wrong Message?

Your attitudes and behaviors may ultimately determine your career progress

By David Cox, SHRM-SCP | May 22, 2018

When we think of effective communications, we typically consider the traditional forms, such as written and verbal.  However, we need to be aware that we communicate our attitudes and work habits in many ways.

Let’s say that you’re being considered for a promotion.  You have sufficient experience and have learned much in your first years with the company.  You’re confident in your readiness for this next step and don’t mind saying so to your employer.

However, you’ve developed a bad habit of interrupting those with whom you are speaking.  You’ve also been known to do this in department meetings.  Such behavior may cause you to be perceived as arrogant and as someone lacking people skills.  Instead of impressing your employer, you are exhibiting a bad habit that identifies you as rude, lacking professionalism, and a “risk,” since you could potentially cause additional problems for the team and your employer.

Therein lies the problem with such messages.  It’s possible for a single habitual behavior to result in a negative generalization.  Moreover, if you continue in this behavior, your employer may progress from thinking your behavior is unacceptable to thinking you are unacceptable.

Consider these examples of habitual attitudes and behaviors, any one of which could prove detrimental to your career.

  • Frequently late or absent from work
  • Requires constant supervision
  • Not completing work assignments on time
  • Argumentative and prone to outbursts
  • Rude to clients and employees
  • Displaying an “I don’t care” attitude
  • Demonstrating little regard for workplace rules and policies
  • Unwillingness to assist other employees when asked
  • Facial expressions that demonstrate anger, disgust, impatience, etc. (e.g. eye rolling)
  • Inability to get along with other employees


Such attitudes and behaviors send the wrong messages and result in negative perceptions.  Once a wrong message is sent, how it will be perceived is out of your control.  Once a negative message is generalized, an employee’s career momentum stalls.

The time to address and change bad habits is now.  Choose positive attitudes and behaviors that will strengthen your reputation at work.  Correct any bad attitudes and unacceptable behaviors and make amends as needed.  Do whatever is necessary to get back on track before you permanently damage your reputation and career potential.

Your attitudes and behaviors should consistently offer a positive message:  “I am a reliable employee.  I perform quality work.  I work well with others.  I care about the organization.  I am trustworthy and ready for advancement.”  These are the qualities employers want to advance and you want to be the employee selected for advancement.

Up next:  The Essential Skills Advantage at Work

David Cox


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