3 Ways Perfectly Competent Singaporean Employees Sabotage Their Careers

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That colleague of yours who’s so spectacularly incompetent that even the interns make him look stupid? Either his days of being employed are numbered, or he’s working for a family business.

But you don’t need to be incompetent to sabotage your own career. There are many perfectly competent employees who are performing well at work, but who’ve impeded their own career progress and gotten themselves marked down needlessly.

If you’re wondering why you haven’t done as well career-wise as you might like despite being good at what you, here are three ways you might be sabotaging ourself.

 

Always underselling yourself

Maybe it’s because people learn at a young age that it’s bad to stand out, or that there’s always somebody who’s better than you. Whatever the reason, Singaporeans have a tendency to undersell themselves in the workplace, quietly hoping their efforts will be recognised.

People tend to try to claim credit in more indirect ways, for instance by CC-ing their bosses in all their emails so they’ll see they’re working, rather than by actively promoting themselves.

A lack of confidence is also something that strikes HR managers all too often when they conduct interviews, and people often use the word “okay” to describe their own skills when questioned.

It’s easy to see how being too modest can become a roadblock to career progress. Many bosses are too busy trying to solve their own problems to really observe their workers unbidden (which is also why those who suck up tend to be the first to get promoted), and if you don’t actively ensure you claim credit for your contributions, you might find yourself getting forgotten.

Some industries also require their employees to be more garang in order to succeed. For instance, at banks, it’s not uncommon to schedule an appointment with your boss to tell him you wish to be considered for a promotion. Those who fail to do so will find their careers progressing at a slower rate.

 

Getting too comfortable in your current job

We all have that friend who complains about his job 24/7, but when asked why he doesn’t just find a new one, says that he’s “too comfortable”. (Makes you wonder how comfortable you can be working in a job you feel the need to constantly gripe about, but okay.)

Okay we get it, even if you don’t exactly love your job, you might not hate it either, and the thought of having to surf job boards, update your resume and attend interviews just doesn’t sound appetising.

But think about it this way. For many employees in Singapore, staying in their current positions or companies for too many years can actually be bad for their careers. In fact, HR professionals advise changing companies every three years in order to ensure that your salary doesn’t stagnate. You can expect an increment of about 10% to 15% when you change companies, as opposed to the average of 4.4%.

If you’ve reached the point where your job is becoming repetitive and you’re no longer learning anything new, or the only way you can get promoted is to replace your boss who also happens to own the company, it’s time to move on.

 

Getting embroiled in office politics

In a 2016 survey, 40% of Singaporeans identified office politics as something that really stressed them out.

But getting embroiled in office politics isn’t just unpleasant—it can also affect your performance at work, get you passed up for promotions and all that good stuff.

I’ve observed in former workplaces how some employees would gang up against others and try to subtly sabotage their progress by strategically leaving them out of work-related emails, or refusing to cooperate on projects. It could get more vicious than a canteen in an all-girls’ secondary school. Employees also spent hours of work time gossiping with their allies, which led to them having to stay back till late at night.

While getting along well with your colleagues will certainly work in your favour, try to avoid getting too involved when pressed to take sides. You might not like a certain colleague much, either, but spending every lunch hour gossiping about him will affect your morale and motivation.

And remember that just because all your colleagues hate that one guy doesn’t mean your boss does. If you can’t or won’t work well with him, you’ll make yourself look bad, too.

Are you guilty of any of the above? Tell us in the comments!

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.