You do good work, but you just can’t seem to get ahead. Or maybe you can’t understand why other people’s careers seem to advance so much faster than your own. If this sounds familiar, you might want to take a good, hard look—at yourself.
A new survey of almost 2,200 bosses and HR professionals by CareerBuilder.com revealed exactly what looks, attitudes, and behaviors do the most damage to employees’ advancement prospects.
The top offenders when it comes to your appearance are provocative or sloppy and wrinkled clothing; 44% and 43% of respondents, respectively, said those characteristics would make them less likely to promote a worker.
The survey highlighted several other big no-nos pertaining to how you present yourself. Offbeat piercings? Tattoos? Might want to think about taking them out or covering them—about a third of bosses said piercings could hold you back, while more than a quarter said the same about tattoos. And hipsters, that beard isn't doing you any favors. About a quarter of hiring managers said “unprofessional or ostentatious” facial hair will keep your career idling in neutral. Finally, don’t show up for a client meeting looking like you just swung by on your way to the beach; no matter how many hoodie-wearing tech whizzes there are in Silicon Valley, the rules are probably different for you. More than one in four respondents said dressing too casually can sink your chances at a promotion.
Aside from how you look, CareerBuilder found that some behaviors are promotion-killers, too. Not surprisingly, a bad attitude and showing up late on a regular basis are the top offenders; in both cases, 62% of hiring managers said this is enough to make them hold off on moving you up the corporate ladder.
If you’re prone to dropping f-bombs at your desk, beware: Just over half of the survey respondents said having a potty mouth is a turn-off in a promotion candidate. Even if you keep your language G-rated, scooting out early or taking “sick” days on a regular basis is almost as damaging, and 44% of bosses will think long and hard about promoting a gossip.
For those of you who silently fume because there’s that one coworker who ditches dirty dishes in the shared sink for days or clutters the office with a trail of paper, don’t worry: They’ll get what’s coming to them. More specifically, what they won’t get is a better job if they work for the 36% of hiring managers who found people that don’t pick up after themselves unworthy of promotions. And almost one in five frown on taking smoke breaks.
Three other red flags from a boss’s perspective are spending lots of time on social media or personal calls, or being that person who constantly wants to yak about Orange Is The New Black or your family camping trip instead of work topics.
The bottom line: Even if your work is good enough overall to keep you from getting fired, you might be holding yourself back from moving up in your career for any number of reasons unrelated to your performance. “While your work performance may be strong, if you’re not presenting yourself in a professional manner, it may be preventing your superiors from taking you seriously,” says CareerBuilder chief HR officer Rosemary Haefner.