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Sidestep the four biggest HR career-killing mistakes

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Employment Law,HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Issue: Are you sabotaging your own career by making the following easily avoidable mistakes?

Risk: Too much "tunnel vision" (focusing on your own department, your own goals, etc.) makes you a less-valuable player.

Action: Review the following "career killers." Any sound familiar? If so, remember this: Nothing changes if nothing changes.

Joanne, a software company HR manager, believed she was doing a good job: employees seemed happy, her department was within budget and payroll and government filings were never late. So, when her boss gave her 60 days to improve her performance, it felt like a sucker punch.

What went wrong? Chances are, she made one of these career-killing mistakes:

1. Ignoring the top brass's agenda. Many HR professionals focus on what they want to do or what they think the top dogs want them to do.

Example: A newly hired HR manager focuses on updating the employee handbook, but the president's most immediate goal is to stem the increasing turnover tide.

"Forty percent of my clients tend not to be aware of their boss's needs," says executive coach Relly Nadler in Harvard Management Update. "There's a vague notion that they're just not clicking, but they're not able to articulate why. I ask them to clarify their top five responsibilities with their boss. That's a conversation everyone needs to have."

Also, don't forget that your boss's priorities may shift. Regularly seek updates about those top goals.

2. Keeping the suits in the dark. It's a classic mistake: believing that asking for guidance on priorities or goals will show weakness. You may think, "My boss will think I don't know what I'm doing if I keep running to him for direction."

But one of the worst things you can do is surprise your boss with a mistake or poor decision when it's too late to correct it.

Instead, master the art of upward communication. Give regular progress reports that spell out what action you intend to take (e.g., how much money you plan to spend, what vendors you have chosen and why) and explain that you'll proceed unless you hear otherwise.

3. Disagreeing at the wrong time. While you don't have to agree with the top dogs all the time (they want your opinion), refusing to go along with one of your boss's final decisions because you don't like it can spell career disaster.

"When we are debating an issue, give me your opinion, whether you think I'll like it or not," says departing Secretary of State Colin Powell in Leadership for the Front Lines. "At this point, disagreement stimulates me. But after the decision has been made, the debate ends. At this point, execute the decision as if it were your own."

4. Ignoring feedback. No one likes to be criticized, but it's essential to take constructive criticism to heart. Those who don't make real change in response to a boss's feedback risk real career damage.

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