Don’t Be That Guy

Many a promising career has been unintentionally cut short because of one of these mistakes that never should have been committed in the first place.

One of my first bosses, Bill Forte, taught me a very valuable career lesson that is worth sharing.

“Hank,” he said, just as I was about to leave for a week-long training meeting, “at this meeting you are going to see a room full of people from across the country who are just like you – working hard to get ahead. I guarantee there’ll be some doofus who shows up late for a session and has an excuse. Maybe he’ll say something stupid and anger someone. Or have too much to drink and behave badly. Or be disruptive. Sometime next week he’s gonna get fired because he just didn’t understand that everything he said or did was seen by someone whose opinion matters.”

“Hank, don’t you be that guy!”

Bill was right. Thursday morning we all noticed the empty chair and understood our missing comrade had become “that guy.”

Here are ten performances and behaviors to avoid, unless you want to become “that guy” too.

1. Cannot get along well with others. Work is a team sport, unless you happen to be in one of those rare roles where you never interact with others. Find ways to work with people despite your differences.

2. Habitual lateness and absenteeism. If you deliver your work late, or call out from work regularly, you will be a very short term employee. Always exceed expectations!

3. Unacceptable performance or behavior. Employees are expected to deliver work that consistently meets or exceeds specific standards established by the organization. Failing to meet standards (both performance and behavior) will find you out of a job.

4. Inability to follow directions. Most organizations have little tolerance for this. If unsure, ask. You will seldom, if ever, be refused. Then follow the direction you were given.

5. Becoming defensive. This happens whenever you dig in and resist the direction others are trying to provide. Welcome the input of others and try to see it from their perspective before you decide to dig in to your own position.

6. Making hasty decisions. When you rush, you make mistakes. Too many mistakes and you are out. Both quality and quantity are required. Remember to measure twice, then cut once.

7. Not keeping current in your craft. This includes resisting technology, not keeping up with advances in your area of expertise, or simply arriving at the point where you think you know all that is necessary. You do have a choice to be a lifelong learner!


8. Habitual disorganization. With some degree of flexibility for individual preferences, you will need to keep your work area clean, neat, organized, and current. Others need to access information and materials and cannot do the job if you don’t keep up with your work or have a sloppy workspace. If you need to be told twice to clean up your work area, the next time may be too late.

9. Being untrustworthy. In his book, The Speed of Trust, Stephen Covey lays out the high cost of not having trust, much higher than any organization can afford. Lying, cheating, stealing, exaggerating, taking shortcuts, and the like, all cost you dearly in loss of credibility and trust, and are ultimately likely to end your career.

10. Taking credit for other’s work and/or being self-promoting. Nobody likes this type of person as a coworker.

Bottom line: Performance appraisals have rightly gotten a wrong reputation because they have been viewed by some to be an activity independent of all the activities that should precede them. When the right steps have been taken, a performance review becomes a helpful and accepted part of ongoing employee development.

This blog is based on the principles taught in BMG’s Leading Through People leadership development program.

Boyer Management Group works with employers, organizations, and employees alike to help them become more successful. For employers, we offer world-class talent development, leadership and management training, acquisition and onboarding tools and programs to help employees and volunteers achieve consistent, optimal performance. For job seekers and universities, we offer tools, assessments, books, and curricula to help connect people with careers. To find out more, please visit us at, or call us at 215-942-0982.


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