Stop Undermining Yourself at Work

Stop Undermining Yourself at Work

Stop Undermining Yourself at Work

From time to time, you may undermine yourself on the job with your behavior. This form of self-sabotage not only prevents you from performing at your full potential, but also gives colleagues and customers an opportunity to think less of you as an individual and professional. 

With self-awareness, determination and practice, you can minimize these negative behaviors. Try this three-step process.

Name Your Behavior

The first step is to understand exactly how you undermine yourself. Three of the most common ways are:

  • Dwelling on the Negative: Whether in a recurring internal dialogue or conversations with colleagues, the themes are the same. You focus on what is bad about your situation versus what is good, what is not possible versus what is. You remember all the bad things that have happened to you, not all the good things or your accomplishments. 
  • Falling into Work-Habit Traps: We all have bad work habits that act as traps we walk into again and again. Common examples include procrastination, tardiness, careless communication and sloppy work.
  • Listening to Your Gremlins: Gremlins are the limiting beliefs and assumptions that subconsciously sabotage your progress. They tell you that you aren't good enough somehow -- that you're not smart enough, not worthy enough or just not up to the challenge. They embody your biggest insecurities.

Zero Tolerance

The second step is to decide which behaviors you will commit yourself to improving. Recognize that it's easier to overcome some behaviors, such as bad work habits, than others, such as deeply held, limiting beliefs. Also consider how failing to change certain behaviors could cost you professionally both now and later. Once you decide, put your personal integrity on the line and make a commitment not to tolerate those behaviors from yourself any longer.

Support the Positive

The third step is to create structures and systems to support the positive behaviors and discourage the negative. Here are some examples:

  • Begin noticing when you're undermining yourself. When you find yourself complaining, falling into a work-habit trap or heeding a gremlin, stop. Tell yourself what you are doing and correct yourself. One common way to raise self-awareness is to snap a rubber band around your wrist each time you realize you've fallen into one of your old patterns. 
  • Remove yourself from environments that encourage the behaviors you're trying to change. For example, if you always talk negatively about work with the same people at lunch, break the pattern by refusing to engage in such conversations or by having lunch elsewhere or with different people. 
  • To avoid falling into work-habit traps, design ways that support your good behaviors and discourage or minimize your bad ones. If you undermine yourself by being late, schedule buffer time in your calendar. If you procrastinate, set an early, artificial deadline for projects. Immediately determine what you need to do and get to work. 

    This strategy can also help combat some forms of negative thinking. If you think your failures outweigh your successes, objectively reflect on your wins. Collect positive performance reviews as well as emails and letters containing positive comments about you and your work. Build the collection and refer to it whenever you need a boost. 
  • To quiet your gremlins, you may need help from a therapist, mentor or career counselor. If, for example, you avoid challenging assignments because a gremlin tells you you aren't up to snuff, a therapist can help you understand why you think this way and work out strategies with you to overcome that limiting self-perception. A mentor or coach can help you focus on your goals, highlight your strengths and encourage your forward progress.

When it comes to undermining yourself, you are both the cause and the solution. By successfully managing such behaviors, you allow yourself and others to experience your best qualities.

[Ian Christie founded to help individuals build bold, fulfilling careers and help organizations attract, develop and retain talent. A career coach, consultant, three-time entrepreneur, former senior director at Monster and former retained executive search consultant, Ian is an expert in the fields of careers and recruitment. He believes that career management is a central theme to both personal and organizational effectiveness. offers career services to companies and individuals as well as free career resources.]