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Are You Sabotaging Yourself at Work?

Without realizing it, you may be putting yourself at risk of losing raises and promotions. Avoid these common workplace errors to get ahead in your career.

Are you frustrated at work? Has it been ages since you received a promotion? Don’t be too quick to pin it on your company — you might be to blame! You could be sabotaging your career despite your best intentions. Look out for these five career killers — plus tips from pros on how to get a raise, get promoted and more.

Your Mistake: You don’t speak up at meetings because you don’t think your ideas are good enough — or you speak up too much!

Why It Backfires: People think you’re not contributing.

What to Do: Force yourself to speak up, says Kate L. Ward, career consultant and author of Personality Style at Work. “Tell yourself, ‘I know this topic and my contributions are as valuable as anyone else’s.’ Boost your confidence by preparing before meetings and wearing something that makes you feel good.”

On the other hand, putting in your two cents too often or too strongly can make you come off as a know-it-all. You run the risk of coworkers thinking you talk too much and aren’t worth taking seriously. To solve this, “force yourself to listen to others’ thoughts — and stop interrupting,” Ward says. Observe others’ reactions, too. “If they shift their attention elsewhere or hold up their hand when you talk, be quiet,” says Kathi Elster, executive coach and co-author with Katherine Crowley of the upcoming Mean Girls at Work.

Your Mistake: You don’t join in the break-room conversation because you don’t want to be seen as a slacker.

Why It Backfires: While it’s true you shouldn’t chat too much during work hours, you may miss networking opportunities and company news if you always keep to yourself.

What to Do: Smile and greet everyone in your workplace. “You can be friendly without being friends,” says Elster. Go beyond business to learn what you have in common with your cubicle-mates. And give a shout-out to your colleagues when they do something great — or even give it a good try. Try saying, “I see you put a lot of thought into this idea. Why don’t we take it in this direction?”

Your Mistake: You share your gripes and views — both in the office and online.

Why It Backfires: You can be branded a troublemaker.

What to Do: If you have a beef with a colleague, share it with the offender face-to-face and diplomatically — then leave it in the office. “It’s never acceptable to talk negatively about your firm, boss or coworkers,” says William DeFoore, Ph.D., president of the Institute for Personal and Professional Development in Addison, Texas. “It doesn’t fix things, and it could get back to your boss. Instead, express appreciation for your job’s positive aspects. People want to work with — and promote — upbeat, supportive and productive people.”

And remember that colleagues can see your tweets and Facebook posts, so keep your personal problems and opinions about hot-button issues offline. Suggests Ward, “Ask yourself: ‘Would I feel comfortable if my grandmother, mother — or boss — read this?’ ”

Your Mistake: You get defensive during performance reviews or work snafus.

Why It Backfires: Your boss may see you as immature or unwilling to improve.

What to Do: Rather than trying to explain your behavior or blaming someone else, listen attentively, empathize and identify what you can do to solve the problem, DeFoore says. “Few people receive criticism well, but it’s vital to being seen as solution-oriented.”

Your Mistake: You don’t check job sites at home because it makes you feel disloyal.

Why It Backfires: Though you may be happy with your job, you should always be open to opportunities. You never know when your situation may change, or if your abilities will fall short of the market’s needs.

What to Do: Regularly update your resume and LinkedIn profile, join committees, and attend company and trade events to refresh your skills and learn about jobs. “View your current position as a stepping-stone toward your goals,” DeFoore says. “Have a vision, revisit it and revise it regularly. As the adage says, ‘If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re unlikely to get there.’”

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