Life at Deloitte

How to manoeuvre around career limiting moves

“Young professionals work hard to build their careers. In the eagerness to excel, they may be prone to missteps. On the other hand, seasoned professionals may simply forget lessons learned early on, in the fray of deadlines and deliverables,” says S.V. Nathan, Chief Talent Officer, Deloitte India. According to Nathan, here are some things you should keep in mind.

Look before you leap

Several years ago, I was in a meeting in which something that was discussed went against my grain. I retorted in the heat of the moment and it cost me dearly. In reflection, I should have held my cool. One of the least understood and most detrimental moves in a career, is saying or doing something without realising that it has been said or done at all. Paying heed to your gut instinct is wise, but not being cognizant of knee-jerk or emotional reactions can matter hugely in the world of a corporate career.

Rumour has it

Then there’s that most omnipresent of beings at the workspace – office politics and gossip. It’s juicy and tempts you to give in to its guilty pleasure. Much like the story of Abhimanyu and his Chakravyuh - many get in, get caught in the crossfire, and are unable to untangle themselves before the damage has been done. My advice, know about what’s being spoken, but draw the line when it comes to indulging in it. We take this lightly, not knowing where it could lead. In our enthusiasm, we get carried away and in the process, lose people’s trust. If you don’t agree with something or someone, think of a tactful, and truthful response, directly to the person concerned, without making the matter and the person a subject of collective ridicule.

Crying wolf

Lying – whether to cover up something, or worse, out of malicious intent, is another matter that can make things a lot more difficult. Know that there is no such thing as small lies. Many a childhood stories speak of the snowballing effect that lies often have. In turn, they build-up your image as an unreliable person. So the next time you don’t know something, or have made a mistake – admit it and be proactive with a solution. It may be difficult in the short term, but it speaks of your integrity and grit. Ethics are vital to any organisation. So lies meant to malign someone are absolutely out of question.

I, me, myself

Future-focused organisations do not shy away from recognising deserving employees. But the focus is on individuals who foster collaboration. Working in a silo, stealing credit that is rightfully another’s, ignoring the reporting structure, sidelining tasks that you deem “unrewarding”, or jumping the organisation’s processes and policies – will all work to your detriment.

A rider to my point about disregarding the organisation’s structure. Jumping over your manager and reaching across to their reporting manager is definitely recommended if it’s a matter of ethics and integrity. Otherwise, always focus on making the whole team look good.

The need for respect

There is a subtle difference between holding your conviction and digging in your heels as a face-saving tactic. There is also a subtle difference between respecting someone’s decision and agreeing to a plan of action, and saying “yes”, just to be in their good books. Respect opinions, make balanced judgments, and don’t let emotions come in the way of logic.

Respect others’ time as well. Agree on realistic timelines, be mindful of meetings and appointments, and devote (as well as allow others to devote) adequate time to loved ones. It speaks highly of you as a professional who excels at work-life harmony.

Respect also means according everyone the dignity of a professional interaction, without biases related to gender, generation, belief systems, or lifestyle choices coming in the way. Organisations will not be appreciative of professionals who are not in sync with their inclusive culture.

A career is built over time. Trust and reputation are likewise, built over time. Small mistakes are made in the course of a career. As long as it is not career limiting, and we learn from them, it is an investment in the right corner.

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