If you want to climb the corporate ladder, stop doing these 9 things

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Ever felt like you’re stuck in a career rut, grinding away but not getting the promotion or recognition you crave? 

You’re not alone — I’ve been there, feeling like I’m running in place, yet going nowhere fast. 

But here’s the kicker: sometimes, we are our own worst enemies. 

We unknowingly do things that set us back instead of propelling us forward. 

If you’re eager to climb that corporate ladder and ready to take charge of your destiny, keep reading. I’ve got 9 eye-opening tips that could be your game-changers.

1) Being too vague

We’ve all been in meetings where someone talks a lot but says very little. Maybe they’re afraid of committing to a stance, or perhaps they just love the sound of their own voice. 

Whatever the reason, vagueness can be a career-stalling habit. 

Imagine being the leader of a project and your team can’t decipher your directions — confusion spreads, deadlines are missed, and blame gets pinned. 

Now picture the opposite: you give clear, concise instructions. Your team knows exactly what to do and feels empowered doing it

The difference is night and day, and it starts with you choosing clarity over ambiguity. No one climbs the corporate ladder with a foggy vision

2) Overusing jargon

You’ve surely come across at least one person who peppers their speech with acronyms, buzzwords, and technical terms that make your head spin.

Sure, jargon can make us sound smart, but it also erects a barrier between us and our audience — especially those who might not be as familiar with the terminology. 

When you overuse jargon, you risk alienating your colleagues, confusing your team, and ultimately, hindering effective communication. 

Being able to communicate clearly and universally is an underrated skill in the corporate world. If you want people to not just hear you, but understand you, then ditch the jargon. 

Opt for simple, straightforward language that includes everyone in the conversation. This will not only make you more relatable but also position you as a leader who gets to the heart of the matter.

3) Being tardy

Being tardy sends a loud message, but unfortunately, it’s not one you’d like to broadcast. It says, “My time is more valuable than yours,” whether you mean it to or not.

 We all know life happens — traffic jams, family emergencies, the dog eating your presentation (okay, maybe not the last one). 

But making a habit of being late shows a lack of respect for other people’s time and schedules. 

It disrupts meetings, pushes back timelines, and most damagingly, erodes trust. If you can’t be relied upon to show up on time, how can you be trusted with bigger responsibilities? 

Make punctuality a priority. It’s not just polite — it’s a fundamental building block of a solid career.

4) Not dressing well (or dressing too well)

They say “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” And there’s a grain of truth in it that’s worth more than its weight in gold — or in this case, your wardrobe. 

You should obviously not dress like a slob, in a T-shirt and jeans, or in the same shirt you wore all week.

But on the other hand, there’s something to be said about fitting in and making everyone feel uncomfortable.

I know someone who desperately wants to climb the career ladder, and he shows up every day to work in a fancy suit. The problem? All his colleauges follow the semi-casual dress code, with a simple pants and dress shirt combo.

What this person is doing is alienating himself from his colleagues by making them feel uncomfortable and himself look like he’s trying too hard.

So my best advice is this: dress just a little bit better than what is expected of you. And never neglect respect for the company culture and people you work with. 

5) Ignoring feedback

Most people love the idea of feedback, but hate the reality of receiving it. 

Granted, it can feel very uncomfortable to hear what you’ve done wrong, unsolicited advice, or even well-intended constructive criticism.

But if you want to climb the corporate ladder, you’ll have to learn to see it for what it is — an opportunity for growth. 

Sure, some of it can be off-base or irrelevant. But it can also be incredibly insightful and point out blind spots you’re not aware of.

How could you ever tell the two apart if you just dismiss it all off-hand? All you’ll be doing is stifling your development and damaging your relationships. 

So the next time someone offers you feedback, don’t just listen — really take it in. Take all the lessons you can from it, and use them as stepping stones to help you on your way up to your career goals. 

6) Hogging credit

It’s hard to climb the corporate ladder without having accomplished anything that makes you deserve it.

So you need to be visible to the right people and be sure you get credited for your hard work.

That’s all very true, but make sure you don’t get carried away in your ambition — or perhaps fear — and let it turn into trying to hog the spotlight.

The same person I mentioned above who tried to dress too well also tries to be the loudest in the room, taking every chance he gets to remind people of his contributions and accomplishments.

And it’s true he does great work, but he’s overlooking something even more important — a team spirit. 

That’s what will get you the support of others on your climb up the ladder. And it’s built by acknowledging and praising the work of your team members without feeling threatened.

7) Overworking

You might think logging extra hours shows dedication, but there’s a fine line between committed and consumed. 

It’s important, of course, to fulfil your work requirements, apply yourself during your work hours, and meet deadlines.

However, if you take this too far, it’s a fast track to burnout, stress, and deteriorating health. 

And what’s worse, you’re setting yourself up for a career trajectory that looks the same way. People will start to have the expectation that you’re working all the time.

As a result, you might be expected to reply to emails outside of work hours, to rush into the office whenever a problem occurs, or to take on other people’s responsibilities when they can’t handle them.

So rather than working harder, focus on working smarter — prioritize tasks, delegate when necessary, and know when to clock out and recharge. 

8) Waiting to be told what to do

You’re not a puppet on strings, so why act like one? Waiting for your boss to spoon-feed you tasks isn’t just career stagnation — it’s career suicide. 

While it’s crucial to understand your role, that shouldn’t confine your initiative. Leaders don’t wait for instructions — they identify needs, propose solutions, and take responsible action. 

If you keep waiting for marching orders, you’ll become ‘that employee’ — the one who only does the bare minimum and is first on the list when downsizing decisions loom. 

In contrast, showing a proactive attitude can make you indispensable and present you as leadership material. 

Don’t hold back on sharing your ideas — be the engine, not the caboose. 

9) Sticking to how things have always been

Remember Blockbuster? Kodak? These giants didn’t fail overnight; they failed to adapt. Now, you might not be a multi-million dollar corporation, but the principle is the same. 

Holding onto outdated methods or mindsets is like clinging to the rungs of a crumbling ladder. It won’t end well. 

Whether it’s stubbornly sticking to old software when the entire office has moved on, or resisting company culture shifts, an inability to adapt paints you as out-of-touch and stagnant. 

And guess what? Companies don’t promote stagnation — they look for growth. The corporate world is always shifting, and you should be too. 

Open your mind, learn new skills, and keep up to date with new tools and technologies. A flexible mindset isn’t just a survival tool — it’s the key to unlocking doors at every level of your climb.

Maintaining momentum on your way up

You’ve just learned 9 things you should stop doing if you want to climb the corporate ladder.

Now here’s a final tip for you. Many people start their climb with a ton of motivation and momentum, but over time they lose traction.

Bad habits may start to creep in while they’re not paying attention, and they may lose focus.

If you’re serious about climbing the corporate ladder, give yourself regular checkpoints to self-assess your progress and see if there’s anything you want to do differently.

As long as you put in the effort and have some patience, you’ll be sure to see a huge difference in your work life and success. 

Lost Your Sense of Purpose?

In this age of information overload and pressure to meet others’ expectations, many struggle to connect with their core purpose and values. It’s easy to lose your inner compass.

Jeanette Brown created this free values discovery PDF to help clarify your deepest motivations and beliefs. As an experienced life coach and self-improvement teacher, Jeanette guides people through major transitions by realigning them with their principles.

Her uniquely insightful values exercises will illuminate what inspires you, what you stand for, and how you aim to operate. This serves as a refreshing filter to tune out societal noise so you can make choices rooted in what matters most to you.

With your values clearly anchored, you’ll gain direction, motivation and the compass to navigate decisions from your best self – rather than fleeting emotion or outside influences.

Stop drifting without purpose. Rediscover what makes you come alive with Jeanette Brown’s values clarity guide.

 

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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