View from HR: Learn how to get out of your own way at work

Why do we get in our own way?

One of my favorite HR leaders talks about the power of getting out of our own way. She means we usually have the skills and experience to succeed, but our behaviors and notions prevent sound action. Down deep, we know what to do. We too often facilitate our own failure.

Would you throw roofing nails in front of your car as you drive off to work? We cause flat tires in our careers and businesses through similarly counter-productive actions.

Lack of clarity

Getting out of your own way is a popular theme in the self-help world. Real Simple magazine ran multiple change-your-behavior-to-change-yourself features last month (like every month). Why is your closet a mess? Because you over think your discards. Why is your world too crazy and noisy? Because you allow background noise, music and constant connectivity to drive you nuts. How can you reduce stress ? By just getting things done rather than stressing!

Employers get in their own way when they let “what everyone else is doing” guide their actions. Why do we issue annual performance reviews like everyone else? Does an across-the-board pay raise make any sense today? Are job boards still the best source of new candidates? Are these employment regulations guiding me or controlling me?

Managers get in their own way by adding complexity where simplicity is best. Sometimes we avoid the responsibility (or the authority) inherent in our role. Maybe we do the right thing for the wrong reason, confusing the outcome. Many managers allow a lack of clarity to avoid real issues, or tell people what they want to hear. Managers afraid to manage just hope it will all go away.

All this stressing over stress is causing stress.

Better focus

The most successful and satisfied people I know find ways to get out of their own way. Maybe it comes from awareness of their abilities and how to plug their weaknesses. Maybe they have a good plan to improve overall direction and outcomes. Others do more of what they enjoy in work and life (it can be done). Sometimes it is just acknowledgment of the things they cannot change combined with better focus on the possible.

A common theme for success in work and business is getting rid of the beliefs and behaviors that prevent success. You know what they are already if you honestly review prior pain points. Your spouse or best friend may also tell you if they trust you to receive it well!

HR leaders coach employees to get out of their own way in work performance and relationships. Is there a behavior pattern regularly rearing its ugly head and preventing success? It is common to see a talented person fail because of self-sabotage.

HR coaches and managers save talented employees by revealing the behavioral roofing nails in front of their career car. A good resolution for this New Year is to stop doing something that is in your way.

Bruce Clarke, J.D., is CEO of CAI, helping more than 1,000 North Carolina employers maximize employee engagement and minimize employer liability. For more information, visit