Fast Track or Off Track: Are You at Risk of Derailing?

Posted December 27, 2012 by Guest Writer in On the Ladder

This is a time of year when we have a chance to reflect. To think about our successes and failures in 2012 and our hopes and resolutions for 2013. When thinking about these matters in a professional capacity, most people consult their own internal scorecard with familiar benchmarks related to salary, job title, promotion and opportunities to advance. Naturally, we focus on past performance as the best indicator of our future success. This approach has merit, of course, but may be misleading at best and misguided at worst, because success can often mask the fact that we are often simultaneously building reputation in one area, while eroding our professional goodwill in another. In other words, all of the “right stuff” accomplished on your To-Do list may be jeopardized by the “wrong stuff” in your To-Stop  list. This threat – which ironically increases with an individual’s seniority — has somewhat recently been attributed to the presence of “derailers.”

Derailers – or career stallers –are not the same as weaknesses. They are tendencies we have that, left unnoticed and unchecked, can be disastrous to our confidence, credibility and impact. Marshall Goldsmith hints at derailers in his terrific book What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There where he identifies 18 behavioral tics he has found are deadly to career advancement.

According to two of the primary experts in the field of organizational development, Robert & Joyce Hogan, especially during times of change and increased complexity – or when we are in transition with a new job, boss or set of direct reports – we are more vulnerable to derailing. Depending on our individual histories and personalities, we tend to react in three ways: by withdrawing, acceding or attacking. None of these behaviors are productive and while may not result in a pink slip, lessen our credibility and effectiveness with our bosses, colleagues and can be debilitating to those we manage.

Derailers tend to fall into four primary dysfunctional patterns:

  • Off-putting, abrasive, and potentially insensitive feedback when dealing with others
  • Excessive micromanagement and failure to delegate
  • Overly ambitious self before others conduct
  • Conflict  with people with different styles, particularly superiors

Most readers of Career Girl Network would never consciously express any of these tendencies. But the stats paint a different picture. A plethora of studies have shown that derailing behavior is at an almost epidemic proportion in our workplaces with an average of 50 percent of all managers exhibiting some type of derailing behavior. These same managers are busily producing results, running companies and managing teams. They are doing a lot of the right stuff – but at a tremendous cost to their reputation and future potential due to a lethal mix of what one writer called “insufferable” behavior.

The question is: could you be one of the 50%? How do you know?

If you are interested in learning more about derailers –  and more importantly, how to develop your own awareness and coping skills, check out this leadership workshop being offered next month:

The focus of the workshop is on leadership — from both a scientific and hands-on perspective. It is being offered by me, Aleen Bayard, and  Dr. Valencia Ray, a former University of Chicago trained ophthalmologist who now specializes in leadership coaching through mindful meditation and current research on the brain. There will be an inspirational speaker and author at lunch to share insights from her new book: Finding Your Piece, 32 Principles to Live the Life of Your Calling. Participants in the afternoon session will also receive a 23-page DiSC communication profile.


Guest Writer: Aleen Bayard

Aleen Bayard is the Principal of MarketZing Inc. a consulting practice focused on building organizational capacity in the areas of leadership development, team effectiveness, culture and managing change.  Aleen uses a variety of proven assessment tools including DiSC, 360 for Leaders, Hogan Index, Barrett Values Index and 5 Dysfunctions of a Team to design customized development programs, curriculum, and workshops. Aleen also is on the faculty of Northwestern University and University of Chicago where she teaches coursework related to Leadership Practices, Organizational Change, and Sustainability. More information and references can be found on

About the Author

Guest Writer

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