that’s not my job

What Not to Say at Work: Career-Limiting Habits and Behaviors

According to research, 97% of employees have career-limiting habits that keep them from achieving their full potential at work. Those habits may be wholly unconscious, developed over decades. The key to breaking them lies first in awareness. 

Five career-limiting habits 

Among the most common harmful habits that show up in the workplace, these five stand out:  

  • Unreliability 
  • The “that’s not my job” mindset 
  • Procrastination 
  • Resistance to change 
  • A negative attitude  


Unreliable employees tend to overcommit to projects. With limited time and resources, they often find themselves unable to fulfill their promises. Whether intentional or unintentional, unreliable employees quickly lose the trust of their employers and coworkers.  

Overcoming this career-limiting habit begins with recognizing your limits. Understand the time commitments required of upcoming projects and your own capacity. Most importantly, learn how to say no.  

Overcommitting simply to keep colleagues happy is a strategy that will set you up for failure in the long term. By learning to say no to projects beyond your capacity, you’ll be able to dedicate time and energy to what matters.  

The “that’s not my job” mindset 

Conversely, avoiding all commitments outside of a single job description can be equally damaging to a career. Of course, there are times this is an appropriate response. Some things require special training to perform or may have legal or safety consequences if performed by someone who is not authorized or licensed.  

This career-limiting habit refers to the overall mindset of people who unreasonably resist taking on additional work even when it’s truly needed for the success of the team. There are times when we all must do a little more to support others, even if it’s not specifically a part of our job description. This is what it means to be a member of a team.  


Getting into the habit of putting off important projects is very easy—and very difficult to break. At the root of procrastination is often a fear of failure. The project seems impossible to tackle, so we avoid it entirely, focusing instead on smaller, less important tasks. 

Overcoming procrastination requires first that you recognize the ‘why’ behind the habit. Is it an issue of fear, overcommitment, or a struggle with time management? Harvard Business Review recommends three tips to help combat procrastination. 

  • Break it into chunks. Reduce the initial cognitive hurdle by dividing a large task into smaller, more manageable tasks. Don’t forget to celebrate each part completed! 
  • Make it social. Involving coworkers where appropriate can incorporate accountability and may help overcome the psychological barriers that contribute to procrastination. 
  • Stop early. Stopping the project in a place where you feel a sense of accomplishment can help you pick up the project again with renewed motivation. 

Resistance to change 

All successful businesses involve change. Routine is valuable, but resisting change simply because it’s unfamiliar is a career-limited habit. Change is inevitable, but that doesn’t make it inherently negative. Prepare yourself for change by allowing yourself to imagine positive outcomes.  

A negative attitude 

Maintaining a positive attitude at work, like embracing change, takes effort. That doesn’t mean you might not raise questions or concerns; on the contrary, asking questions is a key part of contributing to a thriving team. The difference lies in the mindset. Are you offering solutions, or only seeking to poke holes? If the latter, you may have unconsciously adopted this career-limiting habit.