On the old TV show Hogan’s Heroes, whenever the reluctant prison guard Sergeant Shultz was confronted with an unpleasant responsibility, he predictably retreated. “I see nossing!” he’d declare. “I vas not here! I didn’t even get UP this morning!”
I thought he was hilarious. And today’s assortment of flawed comic book superheroes continue evoking delight as they get the job done, but not without a lot of immoral and deeply self-justified rule-breaking.
Despite its comical appeal in a sit-com or movie, however, professional irresponsibility in real-life is no joke. Workers who are emotionally adolescent, morally conflicted, or destructively brilliant are not only counterproductive to their own purposes; they are dangerous to the entire operation.
Competent, responsible and ascendant professionals are those who continue to hone their relational and technical skills for the benefit of themselves and their organization. Based on my own observations, they commonly avoid a number of problem behavioral patterns that I’ve assembled as the Seven Deadly Sins of Professional Irresponsibility. “Heed them, and prosper you will,” as Yoda might say:
1. Willful ignorance. Sustaining a growth rate of 66 percent annually for many decades, the fastest growing entity in the world is information. And while knowledge has also been greatly increasing, it cannot keep up with the exponential pace of information—which paradoxically means that our collective ignorance is growing faster than our knowledge! Even if you are an expert in all aspects of your responsibilities, you will not remain one if you do not keep abreast of the new developments and trends in your profession. Do not neglect your ongoing education: keep learning, keep training, stay current, stay sharp.
2. Destructive attitudes. Like a quiverful of poison-tipped arrows, destructive attitudes are self-inflicted wounds that can kill both you and your career. Do all you can, including securing a life coach, accountability partner or other professional help if necessary, to rid yourself of self-doubt, self-criticism, giving in to fears, uncontrolled anger, envy, excessive pride, arrogance, inflexibility, and a host of other vices. Give them no place in your personal portfolio.
3. Procrastination without cause. Everyone procrastinates sometimes, but some 20 percent of us chronically avoid unpleasant or difficult tasks by deliberately seeking out distractions—which, unfortunately, are increasing just as fast as information. For want of self-discipline, a deadline’s missed, a goal’s delayed, a contract’s lost, a future’s vanished. Overcome the habit by prioritizing and creating action plans to counteract the ill effects of perfectionism, disorganization, or poor decision-making skills.
4. Conflict mongering. Habitual problem makers become infectious problem carriers, able to bring down whole corporations from their constant, treacherous skirmishes. While not all problems are solvable, arguments require arguers. Seek to promote understanding of all sides in a contentious issue, and work to de-escalate and resolve conflicts rather than to ignite and fuel them.
5. Relational dysfunction. Deteriorating work relationships herald trouble among the most valuable resources we have – people! – and undermine the stability of both your position and your organization. Nurture all business, staff, and client interactions with integrity, engendering truth, purpose, responsibility, and trust. As far as it is within your power, seek to live at peace with all people.
6. Mediocrity. The online Urban Dictionary offers that the most insidious influence on the young is not violence, drugs, tobacco, drink or sexual perversion, but our pursuit of the trivial and our tolerance of the third rate. Small-minded people cannot comprehend limitless possibilities, and will always dismantle great enterprises to the unremarkable level of mere mediocrity. Above all, seek and reward superior workmanship, highest professional conduct and exceptional quality productions in all endeavors.
7. Whole person imbalance. One hundred-fifty years of research proves that long hours at work kill profits, productivity and employees. While there are whole industries and entire branches of medicine devoted to handling workplace stresses, Social Futurist Sara Robinson asserts “the bottom line is that people who have enough time to eat, sleep, play a little, exercise and maintain their relationships don’t have much need of their help.” Recognize you are more than your work output: seek a well-balanced lifestyle physically, mentally, socially and spiritually.
MasterPoint: Achieve more through a regimen of professional responsibility.