In your career development, when you suffer a career setback, it’s rarely because of something you’re doing well. There are some habits, that you need to overcome.

Conflict avoidance

This isn’t just about avoiding difficult discussions, though that’s certainly part of it. At its core, conflict avoidance uses escape or intimidation to mask insecurities and avoid having our fears, uncertainties, or mistakes exposed.

Once you label conflict avoidance as fear and derailer, it becomes easier to face. Seek advice on how to confront the issue. If you’re nervous, start by simply writing down your plan. It’s best to respond to the situation directly and in person. This is the skill-building approach.


This derailer might include unpredictable emotional responses, such as anger and frustration, or going after the new, shiny idea without vetting it. It’s a habit that loses your relationships, support, and buy-in.

If impulsiveness is one of your derailers, too, start by carving out time to reflect on previous knowledge, successes, and failures and consider what you missed in your haste. For future projects, anticipate consequences by asking problem questions such as:

  • What is most likely to fail in execution?
  • What have I missed?
  • How will this be perceived by others inside and outside of the organization?
  • What kind of experience do I want to create for the people who are reading my communication or following my direction?

This is the most common derailer in the corporate world and hurts career development. It’s the number-one cause of poor problem-solving and a lack of innovation. Blame shifters exaggerate the negative, feel like victims, and pass the buck to colleagues, different departments or managers.

To break this habit, you have to call out the assumptions that enable it:

  • that you/your team “did everything you could” and are therefore not responsible for an outcome;
  • that you/your team are powerless and, since you lack control, deserve no blame
  • that other actors are bad, mean, or otherwise worthy of blame
  • Next, move into problem-solving mode. Learn from your failures, acknowledge current constraints and ask what you can do with the control and influence you do have.
Insisting on control

In extreme situations, employees working for a controlling leader stop taking initiative, no longer offer ideas, avoid giving valuable feedback, can’t develop their skills, and often quit.

If you tend to micromanage, consider spaced-out check-ins in which you get updates, share goals and metrics, and offer advice, while still empowering your team. You need more communication, buy-in, and alignment to loosen control, but the results are shared team success.


We should all strive to do our best, but people who always aim for perfection in career development, often miss deadlines and opportunities.

The solution is to focus on confirming standards with others. Seek their feedback on expected results, costs, and timelines rather than adopting the extremely high ones your perfectionism tends to manufacture.

Power hunger

This includes claiming control over the resources in a relationship, due to lack of empathy, a laser-focus on your own goals at the expense of others, an unwillingness to compromise, or seeing others as a means to an end. Power-hungry leaders tend to make snap decisions and alienate the people around them.

All of us can create systems to hold ourselves and others accountable through advisers, assessments, or just asking for feedback.