Banish these 5 toxic thoughts at work
People can be toxic – and so can thinking patterns. In fact, how you think can make a big difference in how well you do at work.
To ensure that your new year gets off to a good start, here are five toxic thoughts to nix before they sabotage your career success.
1. "I deserve this promotion." A feeling of entitlement, though tempting, is something to avoid at any point in your career. While you may feel that you've earned an advancement opportunity through hard work, bosses and colleagues will feel resentful if your attitude suggests that you believe you're owed something special. "Lack of humility makes people in senior roles appear to be dictators or sloths to staff below them, and makes junior people appear overeager and ungrateful," says Matt Paddock, general manager at Grow, a digital agency based on Norfolk, Virginia. "Not that we need to spend every minute of every workday convincing those around us that we're worthy, but just thinking of the workplace as a level playing field can help you avoid all kinds of bad behavior."
2. "I must have done something wrong." Assuming the worst about yourself and others is a real buzzkill for teamwork. If your boss passes you in the hall and doesn't say, "Hi," it doesn't mean that she has it in for you. She may have been deep in thought. "When people assume the worst possible intent of others, that gets in their way of building productive working relationships with them," says Karlyn Borysenko, principal at Zen Workplace, which uses psychology to help individuals and organizations navigate challenges at work. "The best way to get out of this type of thinking is to adopt a questioning mindset. Ask yourself, 'What other explanations could there be for this?' before assuming one specific explanation."
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3. " I dropped the ball and am going to get fired." Each workday presents multiple opportunities for snafus and mix-ups – but imperfection in the office is business as usual. Unless the error is truly something that will hurt the company, chances are that it can be fixed, and others will understand since they also make mistakes at work. That's why it's best to avoid "catastrophisizing" – or expecting things to be worse than the situation merits – about every little thing that goes wrong. "With deadlines to meet and competition high, it makes sense that people would catastrophize about being unable to complete their work or the possibility of being demoted," says Ash Nadkarni, a psychiatrist at Brigham and Women's Hospital and an instructor at Harvard Medical School. "The problem this creates is the distraction of panic, keeping people from concentrating on the task at hand or scheming in a toxic way. A small measure of skepticism about your negativity can go a long way."
4. "I'll never get it all done." While many companies are dealing with overwhelmed employees, you don't need to let your workload sink your morale. Suz Graf O'Donnell, president and lead coach at Thrivatize, which helps successful leaders maximize performance, suggests that employees should think about whether they can break down their work into more manageable chunks when they feel overloaded. "If it still seems like more than you can do well, talk to your team leader about delegating some of the work to others or prioritizing the things that are most important to the team," O'Donnell says.
5. "I'm not as good as my colleagues." When confronted with a challenging new task, it can be difficult to feel confident in your abilities. In fact, many people – particularly women – doubt their own competence and may even suffer from "imposter syndrome," which makes them feel like they aren't actually as good at their jobs as others think they are. Yet according to Susan Peppercorn, Boston-based career coach and CEO of Positive Workplace Partners, perceiving others as more successful or powerful doesn't allow room to see your own success. "These comparisons tend to become self-fulfilling prophecies," Peppercorn says. To nip such negativity in the bud, confidence coach Jo Emerson suggests recognizing the emotion behind these thoughts. "Fear tells lies," Emerson says. "You simply wouldn't have your job if you were unable to do it. So when you notice yourself believing the imposter narrative, stop and make a pledge to plug any knowledge or skills gaps you have by investing in some training or mentoring – and remind yourself that you're good enough."
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