I was recently contacted by a young woman who was passed over for a promotion because she “cared too much about what other people thought.” Her boss told her that she needed to be more independent and assertive.
I asked her to describe her typical workday and her interactions with her peers, and it became clear that she had fallen into the habit of frequently asking for approval. She was unwilling to take risks in her work and took a very conservative approach to her assigned tasks. Her focus on her job bordered on obsession and it was clear that she was missing the work-life balance that is so important to success.
I gave this young woman a simple prescription for redirecting her career path and for becoming more secure and independent in her decisions. These steps are important for anyone:
- Recognize and accept the fact that you do not need the approval of your colleagues at work. As long as you are performing up to the standards and expectations of your position, your colleagues’ opinions are unimportant. Keep the lines clear between business and personal.
- Take care of yourself first. Get plenty of sleep. Eat healthy food. Exercise. Have a connection with other people. Find a hobby. Consider taking a class or doing something to connect with people outside of work. All of these activities will make you healthier and more interesting.
- Acknowledge your strengths and your accomplishments. Use these to build your resume and your connections. Unless you acknowledge and promote yourself and your skills, you could easily fade into the background. There are plenty of others who are promoting themselves in the workplace, and you need to be your own best cheerleader.
- Own up to your mistakes but do not dwell on them. It is better to self-disclose and then take the necessary steps to take care of it. People will respect you for this.
- Be your authentic self. This is one of the best lessons you will ever learn. Be true to yourself and to your values and beliefs.
- Do not take business decisions personally. Someone can be angry about a decision you made, but that does not influence how he or she feels about you as a person. You could be passed over for a promotion, but this is not something you should necessarily take personally. As Michael Corleone said to Sonny in The Godfather, “it’s not personal, it’s business.”
- It is perfectly fine to care for others, but do not rely on affirmations and accolades from other people. Your happiness and your success is not dependent on what someone else thinks. Your opinion of yourself is what is important.
- Learn to disconnect. We’ve become almost constantly connected to work, with our mobile devices. Our employers generally do not expect us to respond to after-hours emails and human resources policies do not expect us to work 7 days a week.
Learning to be your own best friend and to take care of yourself, first, will help you maximize your ability to perform on the job and will help you gain the confidence you need to do your best. Recognizing that business decisions are usually not personal will make it easier for you to set limits and protect yourself and will help you accept ownership of your success and of your life.