A friend of mine was sharing his frustration over what he perceived to be a stagnating career. He felt he was “going nowhere…fast.” While he had the credentials, track record, and experience to be a game changer in his company, he was often the last one chosen to lead key projects, rarely got management’s buy-in for his team to get necessary resources, and recently had two of his direct reports moved to another department, without his input.

Are you hurting your career?
Are you hurting your career?

Building a strong and compelling personal brand puts you in a position of influence over the opportunities you desire. For professionals seeking management jobs, a solid personal brand must be compelling and attractive to decision makers who can advance your career in that direction.

While most of us are acting with good intentions, our behaviors can actually be sabotaging our chances for desired success.

Here are three prime examples:

1/  Class Clown

Have you been in meetings with the Class Clown? This is the person who insists on dropping joke bombs whenever the mood strikes – appropriate or not. These may or may not be full jokes, too. The Class Clown often blurts out one liners, punch lines, or innuendos, stopping the flow of the discussion mid-thought.

While entertaining and fun to be around, the Class Clown can be disruptive to the discussion and is often not taken seriously. One man I worked with was in the IT field. During daily stand up team meetings, he would often blurt out something like, “That’s what she said,” when the team was in the midst of project management challenges or even “Say hello to my little friend…” when asked to update on his progress.

Of course everyone giggled and appreciated the momentary levity, but in fact he was slowing progress of the team because they needed to get back on track after his “jokes.” Over time, his team started avoiding him or leaving him out of serious discussions because they feared being sidelined by his humor.

2/  Office Mom

Years ago, I met a young woman who told me, “I’ve got a reputation in my office as ‘the office mom.’” She continued, “Everybody calls me the office mom, and I get feedback that I’m important because I take care of everyone. I’m getting passed up for promotions, and I don’t think I’m getting any respect because I have this brand, this label.” Being known as ‘the office mom’ is clearly hindering her opportunities.

What was she doing to create this reputation? She was the person who organized the Friday afternoon parties, always set up the meetings with the napkins and the coffee pot and the bottled waters, and she also cleaned up after gatherings. She was the one that made sure everybody got a birthday card on his or her birthday. She was a very giving, generous, warm person, but because she was feeding into this perception, she was limiting her opportunities.

3/  Pleading the Fifth

A young lawyer I know half-heartedly shared that her career was hindered by what she called her tendency to “plead the fifth.” Not literally, of course, but she noticed a pattern in herself that she withheld her opinion or recommendations in critical discussions with the partners in her firm because she feared being ridiculed. She was a junior lawyer, and her experience was sparse. She bit her tongue and didn’t offer insight or ideas, when the rest of the team was happy to do so.

Initially, she related it to her Asian heritage and the fact that she was a woman. “I was raised to be quiet and reserved,” she told me. Over time, she realized that not speaking up and voicing her thoughts was holding her back. “Sometimes I wonder if they even know I’m in the room,” she feared.

Learning to be more vocal and participatory took time and work for her, but in the end, she earned a reputation as a valued contributor. Even in the cases where her opinion or contribution was way off… and others snickered… she learned to laugh at herself instead of retreating back into her shell.

Rebuilding a brand that has been tarnished because of counterproductive behavior requires awareness, strategy, and consistent (positive) behavior. It’s not enough to want to change and expect everyone will see you differently. It takes time to remove a negative brand perception and begin to be taken serious in the organization.