Seven Deadly Sins At Work: Career Killers

by Michael Haberman on May 14, 2009 · 0 comments


An article on CareerBuilder.com had an interesting take on toxic behavior at work. How Toxic Behavior Leads to Sinful Behavior at Work , written by Rachel Zupek, talks about a study by Dr. Mitchell Kusy and Dr. Elizabeth Holloway, authors of “Toxic Workplace! Managing Toxic Personalities and their Systems of Power.” In their material they talk of bad workplace behavior in terms of the Seven Deadly sins. For those who are unaware of these sins they are ENVY, GLUTTONY, GREED, LUST, PRIDE, SLOTH AND WRATH. They give examples of each and offer solutions for overcoming these sins and recovering your career.

Here are a couple of highlights:

  • Envy: When you’re envious of someone else, you naturally want to undermine his reputation and the way others gravitate toward him.
  • Gluttony: More is not always better. Though many people are eager to climb quickly up the corporate ladder, none of that will matter if you don’t care whom you plow through to get to the top. “You don’t need to belittle and diminish someone else for your work to be noticed. Work with your team so that you are all noticed for innovation and productivity. Make sure that you are in the lead of building a positive team climate; making everyone look good on a project will make you look good as a team player.”
  • Greed: Everyone is guilty of wanting more: more money, more power and more responsibility. The problem comes when you try to use your position to punish others, demand their loyalty or take all the credit for the work that others have done.
  • Lust: Not just limited to office romance. You might lust after a nicer work space or even your boss’s job. But, spending your time focused on what you don’t have or others’ work achievements rather than working to further your own is a sure-fire career killer.
  • Pride: You have no problem taking credit for a job well-done, even if it was a joint effort. You have the absolute belief that you’re always right; you always want to be in control; and you think other people won’t — or can’t — do their jobs.
  • Sloth: If you’re lazy, complacent or indifferent about your job, you’re on the express train to nowhere. Just because you’ve been successful in the past doesn’t mean that success will carry you through the rest of your career. Sloth becomes toxic when there’s a continued pattern that becomes counterproductive to workplace productivity.
  • Wrath: Anger and malice benefit no one in the workplace. Harboring secret hatred or angst toward your boss, colleagues or general work environment will only create an atmosphere of negativity and abuse around you, Kusy and Holloway say.

In my HR career I have seen many of these behaviors. I find the most damaging to be the first three particularly when they are associated with the boss. It ruins morale, lowers productivity and causes expensive turnover. And unlike, sloth, often these behaviors are interpreted as a good competiveness or that “go-getter” attitude. Sloth is lazy and no one has a problem in getting rid of someone who is lazy. Being attuned to attitudes, turnover and performance metrics may help you identify when you have a problem in your company.

If you recognize yourself in this list then perhaps you may want to read Kusy & Holloway’s book to get their advice on how to correct your behavior.

Tell me some of your stories about toxic employers and how destructive they have been in your organization.

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