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This One Habit Could Really Derail Your Career

By Maurie Backman - Feb 16, 2018 at 9:18AM

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And it's one you have the power to control.

When it comes to workplace habits, we all have our share of imperfections. Some of us are procrastinators by nature. Others are notoriously tardy, even when their commutes are negligible. But if there's one flaw you really don't want associated with you in a workplace environment, it's being that person who's constantly complaining about everything.

Being a complainer can hurt your career in a number of ways. For one thing, you're less likely to get promoted if you're known as that person who generally has something negative to say. Furthermore, if you become such a perpetual complainer that it turns others off, no one will want to work with you. And once you reach that point, you might lose out on key projects that could otherwise propel your career in the right direction.

A man in a shirt and tie sitting across from another man, pointing to a tablet and frowning


If it's been hinted that you have a tendency to complain, or if you've noticed it yourself, it's time to bust out of that pattern before it really comes back to bite you. Here's how.

1. Look for the positive

Though it may be easier said than done, one of the best ways to train yourself to stop complaining so much is to spend a few minutes each morning focusing on the positive aspects of your job. Maybe your work itself is kind of boring or stressful, but your salary is great. Maybe your earnings aren't all that impressive, but you're thankful that your company provides decent health insurance for you and your family.

No matter what glimmer of positivity you manage to eke out, spend a little time focusing on it as you approach each new day. Better yet, leave yourself a cheat sheet -- list what you're thankful for on a Post-it note taped to your laptop, or inside your desk drawer if you don't want others to see. Having that fresh reminder just might help you put the brakes on the next complaint that would otherwise roll off your tongue.

2. Steer clear of fellow complainers

It's easy to get lost in a sea of negativity when you're surrounded by colleagues who see things as bleakly as you do. If you really want to put a stop to all that complaining, immerse yourself in positivity. Seek out coworkers who have better attitudes, and ask to spend more time working with them. If need be, request that your desk be moved to another spot so that you're not constantly overhearing others gripe and moan about their deadlines and various sources of pressure. Not only will this likely improve your outlook, but it'll help you avoid being associated with your fellow whiners.

3. Share your apprehensions rather than mask them with harsh words

We often use complaining as a defense mechanism of sorts. For example, if faced with a difficult project you're worried about tackling, you might choose to grumble about it rather than say what you're really feeling -- that you're scared you won't end up meeting expectations. But if you let yourself grow comfortable with expressing yourself honestly, you may come to find that your reputation at work improves.

For example, if you come clean to your boss or colleagues that you're nervous about an upcoming presentation, they're likely to sympathize and offer advice. But if all you do is complain about it, they're apt to roll their eyes and walk away.

Nobody likes a complainer, especially not at the office. So if you've fallen into that nasty habit, it's time to change your ways. Otherwise, you risk not only being miserable but having your career suffer as well.

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