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The Top 6 Things You Should Never Tolerate In Your Career

Forbes logo Forbes 01-02-2016 Kathy Caprino, Contributor
In my career coaching work over 10,000 professionals in 10 years, I see every day in their lives and careers these same challenges repeated over and over – that they’ve compromised themselves and their integrity to get a paycheck, to keep a job, to be promoted, or to achieve what they think is success or financial “security.” And it’s making them depressed, ill and disillusioned. But six of these challenges rise to the top as the most egregious and damaging. © Provided by Forbes In my career coaching work over 10,000 professionals in 10 years, I see every day in their lives and careers these same challenges repeated over and over – that they’ve compromised themselves and their integrity to get a paycheck, to keep a job, to be promoted, or to achieve what they think is success or financial “security.” And it’s making them depressed, ill and disillusioned. But six of these challenges rise to the top as the most egregious and damaging.

Before launching my own coaching firm, I spent 18 years in corporate life, in publishing, marketing and membership services. I rose to the level of VP, and managed global initiatives, sizable staffs and multimillion-dollar budgets. Some of it was fulfilling, and I was considered “successful.” But much of it, especially at the end, was not good, healthy, positive or rewarding. In fact, the last few years of corporate work were full of toxicity. From backstabbing colleagues, to substandard leadership, to unethical practices, there were things I witnessed and participated in that, today, I would never, for a second, tolerate or accept. I’ve grown up.

In my career coaching work over 10,000 professionals in 10 years, I see every day in their lives and careers these same challenges repeated over and over – that they’ve compromised themselves and their integrity to get a paycheck, to keep a job, to be promoted, or to achieve what they think is success or financial “security.” And it’s making them depressed, ill and disillusioned. But six of these challenges rise to the top as the most egregious and damaging.

Here are the top 6 things you should never tolerate in your work or career.

1. Allowing someone to abuse or harass you

There was one experience I faced in my corporate life that could only be called sexual harassment. One executive two levels above me made personal, sexually inappropriate requests and suggestions to me that made me terribly uncomfortable, and were way beyond acceptable. The implication was that if I did what he suggested, he would favor me and send important, lucrative business my way (worth millions).

It was one of the toughest periods of my professional life because I simply had no idea how to successfully navigate through it. If I said “no” to him, my business (and I) would be hurt, as he was known to make life difficult for people who didn’t do what he said. If I complained to HR (whom I didn’t trust), I would be hurt there too, because he was deeply ensconced in the company and wouldn’t be reprimanded. In the end I declined his suggestions, but I’ll never forget how victimized and trapped I felt.

What to do instead? Never allow someone to abuse or harass you. Ever. Get outside help immediately if this happens, and obtain the expert support and guidance you need to help you navigate through these challenges with the help of someone with power and authority in your corner.

2. Giving up everything for money

Money – and our relationship with it — is a topic that’s spawned millions of books, articles and seminars. Many struggle each day with maintaining a healthy balance and appropriate power dynamic with money, and many fail. Countless professionals give up their souls for money – not because they are necessarily struggling to pay the bills, but often because they’ve become enslaved by their lifestyle and the need to impress (and their need to feed their sense of worthiness through money). These folks have forgotten what they’re capable of, and that they’re here at this time not to just pay the bills, acquire things, and keep up with the Joneses. I’m not saying that fulfilling your financial obligations isn’t important – it is. I am saying that you are much more than your paycheck or bank account. And you can find work that both feeds your soul AND brings you the money you need.

What to do instead? Get out of denial and recognize when you’ve sacrificed your soul for money. It’s clear when it’s happened – you’re in a painful, debilitating state that you can’t ignore, and no amount of money will heal it. 

3. Abandoning your self-respect

Recently, a client of mine shared this:

“I’m feeling so much pressure to be the kind of manager and leader I dislike intensely. I’m not allowed to spend my time developing people, or to give them the training and help I want to give them, to support their growth. I’m told I have to manage and behave in a certain way that feels really wrong for me, and I just don’t know what to do about it. When I push for what I believe is right, I’m either ignored, shut down, or I’m not considered a team player. I don’t like who I’ve become here.”

I’ve lived this too – that the way I was expected to behave, communicate and act in a certain corporate culture – as a manager or a leader – made me lose all self-respect.

What to do instead? If you feel that you’ve lost your self-respect, you need to make some significant shifts in how you are operating in the world and what you’re allowing. Often we’re in this situation because we don’t understand the tremendous value we offer, or the great talents and skills we possess. We see only what’s at the tip of our nose, and not the bigger picture of who we are and can be in the working world. If this resonates with you, you’ll need to learn how to honor yourself more deeply, a

nd adhere to what you believe and know. If you can’t do that in your current job, start interviewing and find a better job that’s a better fit. It’s doable but you have to start.

4. Lowering your standards of integrity

I view “standards of integrity” as core principles and values that guide our behavior. Integrity is a choice, and while it is influenced by a myriad of factors (your culture, upbringing, peer influences, etc.), if you behave in ways that are out of alignment with your integrity, you’ll suffer. One who has strong and well-defined standards of integrity behaves with wholeness, integration, honesty, and does right by himself/herself and by others. Standards of integrity involve values and virtues such as honesty, kindness, trust, wisdom, loyalty, transparency, objectivity, acceptance, openness, empathy, and graciousness.

In these past few years, I’ve witnessed so many people in midlife awaken as if from a deep sleep to realize that they’ve compromised their most core values in order to get ahead in their work or retain jobs they hate. It hurts them to realize that they’ve walked away from who they are, and what they value and cherish most.

People mistakenly believe that in these tough economic times they have to give up on their values and integrity to stay employed, but that’s simply not true. Those who are guided by a strong sense of integrity fare much better in professional life, and will be successful where others fail.

What to do instead? Identify your top values (here’s a great values exercise, courtesy of the Connecticut Women’s Business Development Council) and begin to honor those more deeply in all the work you do. Move away from work and people who don’t align with your top values.

5. Disregarding your health and well-being

In my teleclasses and workshops, I see hundreds of high-level professional women who are brilliant, achievement-oriented and accomplished, but at the same time exhausted, depleted, and depressed. In the pursuit of a great career, they’ve compromised their health and well-being. Much of this has to do with the ever-complicated issue of work-life balance and how to stay competitive and ahead of the curve. But to me, it’s much more. Sacrificing your health and well-being demonstrates your lack of prioritizing yourself as important, failing to understand that you need to care and restore for yourself every day – and yes, put yourself first — before you can be of true service to anyone else, your business, your family or your employer. If your body is shutting down, diseased or debilitated because of how you work, rapid change is needed.

What to do instead?  Find ways to be kinder and more caring to yourself, with behaviors you can sustain over time. Start putting yourself first rather than last. Read Gretchen Rubin’s great

book Better Than Before to learn more about your personal tendencies that shape how you see the world, and how you can build healthier, life-nourishing habits that lead to a happier life.

6. Ignoring your life purpose

Finally, the saddest professionals I’ve met haven’t taken the time to uncover their passions, or identify what gives their life meaning and purpose. I’m continually stunned when, in my Amazing Career Project course, members share that they don’t have a clue what they’re passionate or even excited about in life. If you don’t know what you’re passionate about, or understand the amazing talents you possess that you can leverage to make a difference in the world, you simply can’t build a career that will bring joy and fulfillment.

What to do instead? Begin to think about what you’d like your legacy to be. What do you want to be able to say about yourself when you’re 90 years old looking back — what you’ve stood for, given, taught, imparted, and left behind. Not what you dreamed of being, but what you have been. Think about the impact you want to make – on your family, friends, community and the world.

In addition, think about what you do each day that you can’t not do, even when you’re not getting paid for it. (Thanks to Gretchen Rubin for reminding me of this yesterday). For me, for instance, I love to write, explore ideas, problem-solve, help others, learn about what makes humans tick, and use my voice in a public way (I’m a singer as well as a speaker). What you can’t NOT do is a clue to what gives your life juice, purpose and meaning.

So many professionals forget that they have this one chance to build a life that’s meaningful and purposeful for them.   Instead, they compromise their potential impact and legacy in a vain effort to grasp “success,” accolades, security, or power. (If you want to clarify your own desired legacy, values, passions, standards of integrity and more, take my Career Path Self-Assessment).

* * * * *

If you think you have to compromise on any of the above in order to be employed or build a successful career, I hope you’ll think again. I’ve lived the pain of losing myself in the processing of building my professional life. I finally learned that, despite all our best efforts, you can never create the success, fulfillment and reward you long for if you to say “no” to who you really are.

What are you tolerating that you’re ready to say “no” to?

To build a happier career, visit KathyCaprino.com, The Amazing Career Project, and Kathy’s podcast Best Work/Best Life. © Provided by Forbes To build a happier career, visit KathyCaprino.com, The Amazing Career Project, and Kathy’s podcast Best Work/Best Life.
To build a happier career, visit KathyCaprino.com, The Amazing Career Project, and Kathy’s podcast Best Work/Best Life.

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