How to fail in your job or career

Some people fall short of their ultimate potential without really understanding why or how. Each of us needs to know when we’re stalling out and what to do about it. Here are some thoughts:

» Technology shortfall: Of all the reasons why some people fall behind, this is one that can be easily fixed. Keeping up to date and ahead of your contemporaries is a sure way to maintain leadership in your field. There’s no faster way to become obsolete then to stop learning.

» You don’t fit: Sometimes you feel like a round peg in a square hole. The culture or goals of the organization may be inconsistent with your values or contribution. You may have been hired for all the wrong reasons. However, you need to fix it by finding a more compatible fit, either somewhere else from within, or another organization. Find the best fit for you.

» You don’t play well with others: Teamwork is a requirement for most hiring managers when filling an open job. If the candidate can’t work effectively with co-workers, problems will increase rather than decrease. If you’re an individual contributor, don’t seek a team-oriented job.

» Undermining your boss: I haven’t met many people who intentionally undermine their boss, but some do it without knowing it. Make sure you know the expectations of your boss. Most of the “undermining” happens by conveying closely held or inappropriately shared information to others outside of the immediate work group.

» Your performance underwhelms: An anemic performer is always vulnerable in the workplace. Make sure you have performance objectives you understand, with a timeline you can meet and the resources you need. Not knowing what is expected of you is the beginning of a problem performer

» You’re the weak link: In a fast-paced, accelerating organization, achieving operating objectives is paramount. There’s always someone who is the weakest link to results. Find out what you need to do to become more productive and equal to the task. Let the spotlight shine on someone else as the drag on the effectiveness within the organization.

» Shift from hard to soft skills: As you move up the organization, your skill sets move away from the hard skills of hands-on implementation to the soft skills of supervision, management and strategy. Some make the transition with ease while others never make the shift and never understand why.

Many of today’s problems start as small deficiencies early in your history and can be remedied with small adjustments. The longer a fault lingers without correction, the more difficult it is to correct later on. So what can you do about it? Identify your shortfalls early and develop a plan to fix them. If you can’t, find ways to work around them. If you can’t, settle in for the long haul as you aren’t going anywhere.

Kaufmann is president of My Greener Future. For a free resume review, send to:

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