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Signs of Toxic Leadership Part 4: Becoming Complacent at Work

As we continue this 12-part series about the warning signs of toxic leadership that derails careers and tanks team performance, let’s open with a reminder.

This is all about YOU. As interesting as it might be to diagnose others’ issues and to assign these personas to people you know (like “my boss is totally The Scrambler”), there’s not a lot of value in making those assessments.

Look inward instead. What potential blind spots do you have? What tendencies within these 12 common career roadblocks do you display? Remember, over 90% of people experience at least one of these career roadblocks in their career, so there’s a pretty good chance there’s something here for you whether you are aware of it or not.

Are you becoming complacent at work and living off past success?

Related posts:

Warning Signs of Toxic Leadership: Are You The One-Hit Wonder?

Ah, yes, those glory days were really something. You were really something. What you did – wow. It was amazing. But… What have you done for me lately?

Graphic Shown Type of Toxic Leadership - One Hit WonderThere’s a diminishing return on accomplishments, even extraordinary ones like yours.

Whether real or perceived, you may be seen as a One-Hit Wonder who:

  • Has one core strength or significant accomplishment that is over-played.

  • Over-relies on technical expertise or a singular skill.

  • Thinks more about execution and tactics than about visioning and strategy.

  • Enjoys details and concrete examples. Dislikes abstract thinking and ideation.

  • Does not have the capacity to lead others due to limited focus on your own work.

In the past, this has served you well or manifested as a positive when:

  • You’ve made significant contributions due to your superior technical expertise.

  • Your focus has enabled you to develop expertise and knowledge that sets you apart.

  • Highly specialized work needs to be done or an expert opinion is desired.

  • Your career accolades were linked to a body of work that required dedicated attention.

  • You could execute on someone else’s ideas or vision.

Maybe this persona isn’t who you really are. It’s not who you intend to be. It feels unfair to be labeled this way. Nonetheless, if people see you as The One-Hit Wonder, something caused them to see you this way. For them, this is real.

What Can I Do if I Might Be The One-Hit Wonder?

warning signs of toxic leadership

The video above gives you a visual look at The One-Hit Wonder.

Make sure you don't have a blindspot when it comes to your soft skills or style. Take the free, self-paced course called The Essentials of Personal Effectiveness to build transferable skills and improve the quality of workplace interactions. 

If you’re encountering a potential blind spot, feel stalled in your career, or are struggling with interpersonal skills in the workplace, you might benefit from working with a certified executive coach. Most senior-level executives have worked with a professional coach at some point in their career. Check out this Forbes article for more about the benefits of coaching.

Ultimately, YOU are responsible and YOU are in control of your choices about how to lead and how to interact with others in the workplace. Now that you’ve got awareness, it’s time to take action.

If you are, indeed, The One-Hit Wonder, here are some immediate actions you can take to change others’ perceptions and exhibit these behaviors less frequently.

  1. Avoid the appearance of “resting on your laurels” or boasting about past achievements.

  2. Diversify your contributions and link your work to strategic initiatives and long-range plans.

  3. Showcase and continually develop the skills and talents you are not as well known for.

  4. Acknowledge your skills gaps and don’t portray your dominant strength as a universal solution.

If you’re wondering whether or not it’s worth it to make these changes, you should know that there is an impact to being perceived as The One-Hit Wonder. There’s an impact on people you work with.

There are also consequences for you, including:

  • The biggest risk you take when you allow 1-Hit Wonder behaviors to go unchecked is that people may be left wondering “what have you done for me lately?” Without recent and ongoing achievements, each reference you make to your glory days makes you look like a “has been” who's becoming complacent at work.

  • The more you refer to the past, the less relevant you seem in the present. Next-level jobs require looking to the future, anticipating and preparing for change, and constantly building capacity for what comes next. If you are seen as someone who prefers the concrete and absolute, you will cause others to doubt your ability to think strategically and with future-focused vision. Talking about past successes doesn’t help.

  • You also run the risk of seeming needy if you overplay your past successes. Once the moment is gone, not yielding the spotlight to others suggests you are incapable of recognizing their achievements.

This choice is yours. Choosing to deny, ignore or embrace your Career Roadblock characteristics are all legitimate choices. You don’t have to change a thing.

On the other hand, if these behaviors or perceptions are preventing you from reaching your goals, it’s also a legitimate choice to modify what you’re doing.

Either way, put yourself in control. Be aware of the perception, your choices surrounding that perception,  and the impact of being perceived in this way.

How Can I Learn More About This Roadblock (and others, too)?

The One-Hit Wonder, and complacency at work with past accomplishments, is one of 12 behavior sets that can become career roadblocks. When others are observing the issues with someone who is stuck and has these blind spots, they frequently use terms to describe these roadblocks (e.g. “control freak” or “dinosaur”).

You can learn about all the career roadblocks that lead to toxic leadership by following this blog series.