Do employees indulge in self-sabotage at work?

Sometimes, the problem lies with the management that hinders an employee’s growth trajectory

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As straightforward as self-sabotaging may seem, for some it may be the unconscious that hinders their own growth and productivity at work. People getting in their own way by constantly goofing up, getting stuck in a war between the logical, conscious mind and their unconscious ‘judgements’ is typical of self-sabotaging behaviour.

Fresh hires tend to have a burning zeal and more openness to imbibe what is required of them to mould themselves into their new roles. Over time — whether it is these employees themselves or their supervisors — the notion of expectations and biases, from and against the organisation, begin to take root. This often leads to the negative manifestation of coping mechanisms that hinder growth for the employees and make them a rusty gear to the company.

Sometimes, the error happens in the recruitment itself when the hiring team ends up taking on a candidate unfit for a role. “The genesis is in the selection process. Whether one has selected the right person for the role or done a superficial job of evaluating the person’s ability and interest for the job,” says Nihar Ranjan Ghosh, president – HR, Emami. He further acknowledges that employee performance, or self-sabotage is not solely because of the new hires themselves.


Reetu Raina

“The initial phase of hand-holding the employees (when they join) and onboarding them into the organisational culture plays an important role.”

 


Getting into a state of disinterest often hints at an unoiled managerial structure and a lack of frequent interaction between the recruits and the managers. Employees can never work in isolation. They are a part of a team and one unoiled cog can seriously affect the functioning of the whole machinery.

Common self-sabotaging behaviours in the office include badmouthing co-workers, gossiping and indulging in negative talk that could lead to negative consequences for the employees. Procrastination, missing deadlines and disengagement from work are other signs to watch out for. These signs develop over time and tend to fester if not arrested in time.

“The initial phase of hand-holding the employees (when they join) and onboarding them into the organisational culture plays an important role,” comments Reetu Raina, CHRO, Quick Heal. The lack of this ‘hand-holding’ which can be roughly translated to micro-management is the trigger point of employees forming their own ‘judgments’ and becoming biased.

It becomes their expectation versus what is expected of them once these judgments sprout and continue to grow on the employee. The hand-holding phase is very crucial, where the interaction between the supervisor and the hire for the initial few months pushes an employee towards positive growth.

Another common manifestation of self-sabotaging behaviour in employees is when they constantly question things and without allowing themselves time to grow into their role. Carrying forward the openness from the day that they join can help curb the ‘judgments’ and allow them more time to get familiar with their function in the company.

Eagerness to adapt to the new functions is also needed; the missing zeal at the beginning of an employee’s work days can often be an indication of a recruitment process gone wrong. There is also a marked difference between generations these days. The older generation have already been in the machinery for a while and do not take much time to adjust to their duties. Of course, this applies to the professionals who are open to learning despite the mountains of knowledge they may already have from their previous work


Nihar Ranjan Ghosh

“The genesis is in the selection process. Whether one has selected the right person for the role or done a superficial job of evaluating the person’s ability and interest for the job.”


Millennials and Gen Z may be fresh to some extent in the job market, but they come with their own set of expectations and are quite vocal about what they want. While this may not be self-sabotaging behaviour, Raina adds that it doesn’t pose a problem as long as the eagerness to learn and fit into their chosen role is present. The new generation also have their plus points. They are flexible with a shorter learning curve and an ability to learn across functions even while multitasking.

The lack of the one-on-one interaction with a senior manager or team leader can put employees on shaky ground, and self-sabotaging behaviours will follow soon after. Constantly making preventable mistakes and missing deadlines tend to become a habit — one that may not be consciously adopted by the unsupervised employee. Ghosh also reiterates that if the employees become disengaged from their work, somewhere the leadership offered to the employees is not doing what is required of them. “It is more of a management failure than employee failure by themselves,” he adds.

A good way for both team leaders and especially the employees to counter this is through introspection and reflection. At the end of the day or week, it is imperative that individuals who find themselves ‘stuck’ sit down and ask themselves the tough questions. Acknowledgement is the first step towards arresting self-sabotaging behaviour.

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