Are YOU the Problem? 

Career Development 

Sometimes, you are your own worst enemy. At work or in your personal life, what is it about you that’s causing the problem? While it’s convenient and easy to lay blame on others, no one can excel professionally or personally until committing to improvement.

Meet John Accountant. Smart guy, attractive, hard working, strategic. He’s employed at a large accounting firm in a major city. After graduating at the top of his class, he is now working on his MBA. He considers his girlfriend his soul mate and is even considering proposing marriage.

Then he began to notice a trend in his life.

Something just wasn’t right. He was passed over for a major promotion and wasn’t being included in special projects in his department. Outside of work, his girlfriend is distancing herself and he is worried she might break up with him.

He says to himself, “The boss just doesn’t like me. She has been out to get me from the beginning. My colleagues are sabotaging me. My girlfriend isn’t any fun, anyway.”

But, deep down, John wonders what is really going wrong. He had a promising career when he graduated from college and pictured himself on the fast track to the top. Now he feels like he is stalled and going backward rather than forward.

What is he doing wrong? John can’t recognize the issues causing his troubles. As a result, he is stalling his own career and personal life. John is his own worse enemy.

Sound familiar? We can all learn from John’s situation to improve our professional and work lives. Here are several scenarios and solutions. As you’re reading these, think about how many sound familiar to you.

Problem 1: Accountability. John frequently takes the role of the victim in his problems.
Solution 1: Take responsibility. By owning up to the problems—even the ones he thinks are someone else’s—John can start creating solutions. For example, he can ask for a mid-year performance appraisal to see how he is doing at work, assess the positives and negatives, and ask for areas in which he can improve. This will show his boss that he is interested in how his work measures up and that he wants to take an active, participatory role in getting better.

Problem 2: Making assumptions. John assumes his boss has it out for him. This creates all kinds of issues in his relationship with her and his ability to feel confident at work. Naturally, he brings this problem home with him and it begins to affect his personal life.
Solution 2: Remember that thoughts are different from facts. When we’re lacking some knowledge, background, or context, we make up stories that explain the situation, yet the problem is that the stories are frequently incorrect. Does John really know that his boss has it out for him? Making assumptions can hold us back from trying new things and can even ruin relationships. So, always ask yourself – is it true? Why do I think this? How can I find out the truth?

Problem 3: Communication. John thinks he is communicating when, in fact, he is stewing in his own thoughts and worries.
Solution 3: Communication. Improving communication skills is probably the most important thing John can do to improve his life. A lot of his fears and anxieties could disappear if he communicated openly. Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Active listening. When John doesn’t grasp something his boss or girlfriend says, he can ask for clarification.

  • Be assertive. John needs to be honest and explain why he agrees or disagrees with a situation. This will help relax his concerns, while others will respect him for saying his peace.
  • Over communicate. When in doubt, spell it out. John needs to confirm things via email or another face-to-face conversation when he is confused or not sure of his role.


Once he realized he needed to change and devoted his time to this effort, how did things turn out for John Accountant? He went to his boss for the performance appraisal and got some specific reasons as to why he was being passed over for projects. He told his boss what he intends to do to improve and feels a lot happier at work. On a personal front, John explained his concerns to his girlfriend and found out she was worried about her own job, which is why she seemed distant. They plan to be married some time early next year.


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