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My personality seems to sabotage every job

Dear Office-Politics,

I need help! I am a 50 something woman working in the real estate industry who is always being told I take things personally and feel that it is really jeopardizing my career.

I am competent but my personality seems to sabotage my career in every job. I want to succeed but I also want to be able to expect responses to questions, requests for items, etc. without always having to worry about “kid gloves.” Others speak to me without an apologetic tone so I don’t understand why I should be held to a different standard.

I’m very friendly by nature but I guess when I don’t get the response I expect or in a timeframe I asked for, then I can show annoyance. But I don’t understand how to segregate my position’s need for information from my need for information. Do I think they are attacking me personally? No, but failing to work with me – whether it’s personal or not – impacts my ability to get the job done and makes my job much more difficult.

Please share with me any advice you can. I’ve read reams of books on anger management, team building, etc. but I can’t seem to get out of this rut, particularly when I look around me and see others getting praised for team work when they are the culprits who don’t respond to me. I need to learn how to be savvy. Any suggestions?




dr. rick brandon
dr. marty seldman

Dear Want-to-Be-Savvy,

We agree that you need to be more savvy, especially when you indicate that “my personality seems to sabotage my career in every job.” You seem to have important strengths to build on like drive for results, competence, and a willingness to look at yourself and try to improve.

The biggest barrier to you becoming more savvy is also a strength but at the same time it is hurting you. You seem to have a strong sense of fairness. It comes across in several points in your letter. This hurts you in two ways.

First, expecting things to be fair often blocks you from seeing reality. There are people with a fair approach who consciously try to follow the Golden Rule from the Bible. However, there are many others who consciously or unconsciously follow the other Golden Rule: The person with the gold rules. This means that a significant number of people you encounter will put their self-interest first and treat you the way they want if they can do it without negative consequences.

We realize this is a cynical way to view things but if it fits your reality we suggest you shift your thinking. It will help you see the actual power in your organization and hopefully get aligned with it.

The second reason to change your expectations is to enable you to get more control of your emotions. If you notice everything that is unfair and inconsistent you will be upset, say things too harshly and start a vicious cycle that will worsen your standing in the organization.

The next savvy skill is to improve the range of your “executive vocabulary.” In Survival of the Savvy we list dozens of phrases that allow you to make your points and requests in a firm, respectful way. If you do this consistently you will avoid problems and generate better responses. Please do not label this kind of wordsmithing in a negative way.

In your letter you used phrases like “kid gloves” and “apologetic tone.” We are concerned that useful attempts to calibrate what you say will be dismissed by you. So in summary, we believe the path to more savvy for you is to lower your expectations regarding fairness and expand your range of phrases to improve your impact.

Thanks for writing to Office-Politics.


Rick Brandon, Ph.d. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. Co-authors,
Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success

cover of Survival of the SavvyRick Brandon, Ph.d. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. are Co-authors, Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success. Dr. Rick Brandon is CEO of Brandon Partners. He has consulted and trained tens of thousands at corporations worldwide, including Fortune 500 companies across a variety of industries. Dr. Marty Seldman is one of America’s most experienced executive coaches. His 35-year career includes expertise in executive coaching, group dynamics, cross-cultural studies, clinical psychology, and training.

  1. One Answer to “My personality seems to sabotage every job”

  2. Let’s nail down the facts. Keep a tape recorder in your pocket and record yourself as you deal with these people. Then you can hear yourself as others hear you. Then you will have a more solid idea of what needs to change.

    By Rod on Apr 21, 2007

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