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Management: Don't Damage Your Career by Aggravating the Wrong People

In business, where relationships are vital to success, style matters as much as being right or wrong.

You build your career on relationships the right relationships. A habit of aggravating people will damage your career. Aggravate the wrong people and your career is dead. Although this seems obvious, many people go to work (some even go through life) thinking they can say or do whatever they want despite the impact they have on others.

A common mistake is believing that being "right" is all that matters.


Being right often gets in the way of developing and maintaining "right" relationships. You can be absolutely right in your conclusions and reasoning, and absolutely wrong in the way you express and convey yourself. In relationships, style matters as much as being right or wrong. Too often, people who know they are right offend others with their bluntness, arrogance and condescending behavior.

For example, many times customer service people focus on being right despite how it affects their relationship with their customer. They drive their customers away because they make the customers feel wrong. Do you want to be right, or do you want your business to grow?

Offending others and damaging relationships adversely affects your career. I believe you can be honest without being brutal and cruel. You can be tactful and diplomatic without sucking up to people. You can be right without being offensive. You don't have to aggravate other people to show how important you are.

For example, I know a middle manager named Joe who complains about his stalled career in a large corporation. Joe is bright and often gets into arguments where he displays his intelligence by making other people wrong. Although he is very ambitious and wants to move up the corporate ladder, he's going nowhere. Why? Because he aggravated many people in the past, and he continues to aggravate people who could help or hinder his career. In business, people have long memories.

Joe often laments his plight and considers quitting and getting a job with another company. What Joe doesn't realize is that unless he changes his behavior so he doesn't frequently aggravate other people, things will be the same in any company for which he works. Changing jobs isn't the solution; changing behavior is.

Here are some tips to help you avoid getting on the wrong side of people:

  • Understand that other people affect your career. Your success is more dependent upon your people skills than on your technical skills. You advance your career by learning to influence others, not by bulldozing over people. If you aggravate other people, they will not be there to support you when you need them.
  • Treat everyone with respect. Apply the Golden Rule. Some people try to show how important they are by putting other people down. This doesn't work. Remember, people at the bottom of the ladder may work their way up, and people at the top were once at lower levels. You never know who can help or hurt your career. So treat everyone with respect and dignity.
  • Be tactful and diplomatic. Realize that being right doesn't justify being offensive. Just because a "truth" pops into your head does not justify your expressing that truth discourteously. Influence requires tact and grace. Someone once said that diplomacy was the art of telling someone to go to hell in a way that they look forward to the trip. Be honest, but be tactful and diplomatic.
  • Choose kindness and gentility. If you have a choice between hurting someone and being kind, choose kindness.
  • Develop your assertiveness skills. Assertiveness is the ability to express and get your needs met while respecting the needs of others. Aggressive people aggravate others because they only care about themselves. Develop your assertive communication skills so you can get what you really need without rolling over other people.
  • Nurture your relationships. Look at relationships as assets. Develop them by helping other people get what they want. In networking, the principle is "givers gain." Those who invest in their relationships gain from those relationships. Caution: Don't look for immediate gain, or a one-to-one return. It doesn't work that way. Invest in your relationships without expectation and the return you get will surprise you.
  • Advance your career by developing the right relationships. Be careful who you aggravate, and make sure you are aggravating them for the right reasons.

For a free copy of "Sixteen Surefire Ways to Damage and Destroy Your Work Relationships," fax your letterhead with your name, address, e-mail address and the words "DAMAGE WORK RELATIONSHIPS" to (801) 288-9303, or e-mail the information to [email protected]

About the author: Terry Bragg runs Peacemakers Training in Salt Lake City and is the author of the book 31 Days to High Self-Esteem. He works with organizations to create a workplace where people want to work, and with managers who want their people to work together better. Contact him at: Peacemakers Training, 5485 South Chaparral Drive, Murray, Utah 84123; (801) 288-9303; E-mail: [email protected]; or Web site at

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