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7/4/10 - 5 Job Skills That Can Hurt Your Career


Can you have too much of a good thing? When it comes to these good things, the answer is yes.


by Clea Badion, Robert Half International


We all know that moderation is important. Treating yourself to a chocolate chip cookie or two is a nice way to splurge after dinner; eating half a dozen in a single sitting is more likely to give you a stomach ache.


The same principle holds true when it comes to your career. Without proper moderation, even the most beneficial skills can harm, rather than help, you on the job.


Here are five abilities that will set you back professionally if taken to the extreme:


1. An ability to multitask
Juggling several activities at once--say, listening in on a conference call, responding to email messages, and composing a project update for your boss--is a skill almost every worker claims to have or wishes to possess. But in actuality, multitasking is rarely effective. Why? Because constantly switching from one undertaking to another prevents you from giving your entire focus to any one task. As a result, your work quality is likely to suffer, and you may even spend more time finishing the projects than you would have if you'd tackled each separately.


2. A strong work ethic
For some professionals, putting in extended hours is a badge of honor and a mark of effectiveness on the job. But long hours don't necessarily translate to productivity. While logging overtime is sometimes necessary in many jobs, making a habit of it could be a sign that you're unable to prioritize assignments, delegate projects, or simply work efficiently. Long hours also can lead to burnout. If you're spending an excessive amount of time at the office, consider speaking to your manager about your workload and ways to reduce it.


3. A can-do spirit
Every company wants employees who won't wilt in the face of a challenge. But an upbeat attitude can backfire if you sugarcoat problems or make promises you can't keep ("Sure, we can deliver twice as much in half the time!"). The best employees possess an optimistic yet realistic outlook.

An overly positive attitude also can be problematic if you don't allow yourself to vent frustration or disappointment when faced with significant setbacks. If you lose a major client or are passed over for a promotion, for instance, it's good to take time to acknowledge the loss, and then use that reflection period to develop a plan for moving forward. Just be sure you don't dwell on a setback or respond in an unprofessional way.


4. A knack for building visibility
Ensuring that your manager is aware of your contributions on the job is important, but avoid stepping over coworkers in an effort to build your name. If you fail to acknowledge others' contributions or if you take credit for their achievements, you'll succeed only in building resentment.


5. A strong technical streak
Whether you're an accountant, administrative assistant, or IT professional, it goes without saying that you must have a firm grasp of the technical requirements of your position. But there's more to succeeding on the job than being familiar with generally accepted accounting principles, for instance. You'll do yourself a disservice if you focus on your job's technical aspects entirely. Interpersonal skills--the ability to communicate and collaborate with diverse audiences, especially--are in high demand by employers. Soft skills become even more important as you move up the ranks. Often, individuals are chosen to lead project teams or oversee groups of employees in large part because of their interpersonal abilities, not their technical skills.


Robert Half International (RHI) is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm, with a global network of 360 offices worldwide. For more information about RHI's professional services, visit For additional career advice, visit or follow RHI on Twitter.