One of the nice things about being Jewish is that I get to enjoy the Mardi Gras revelry without the Ash Wednesday guilt. While Lent isn't part of my lifestyle, I still try to take periods of reflection on my missteps and responsibilities, especially when it comes to my professional life. I try to avoid the worst "sins" whenever possible.
The poet Dante identified seven cardinal failings or sins. These are, in order of bad to worst: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. Most of these, he argued in the Purgatorio, happen as a result of good impulses gone wrong.
We can look at these same misdirected impulses as they happen in the business world. These are the human weaknesses and temptations that can derail your momentum, disrupt your progress, or even destroy your career.
Let's start with "lust," which Dante defined as "disordered love" between people. He thought this was the least serious of the seven deadly sins, though it can still create interpersonal havoc in the office. Here are seven lust situations to avoid:
1. For a Co-Worker
Let's start with the obvious. Office romances happen. Some workplaces are more OK with this than others. No matter what the policy is, you should never allow your physical attraction to an officemate affect your behavior. Losing focus may cost your efficiency and effectiveness, create unnecessary tensions, or result in an uncomfortable visit with HR.
2. For Friendship
Right now, there's a trend towards living at work, especially among younger employees. Many companies encourage this by providing meals, amenities, and the comforts of home at the office. This means your officemates may also become your primary social group. But as with romance, friendships can get complicated, hit rough patches, or sour. If you cannot set boundaries, then the personal and professional may be separated for you. And your work friends may be buying your beers while you look for a new job.
3. For Approval
It's nice to be liked. If that's what matters most to you, however, you may succumb to quiet politeness or passivity. If you place popularity above truth, progress, and growth, you won't do your career or your company any good.
4. For Admiration
People look up to those with stand out talent and skills, so it makes sense to develop and use yours at every opportunity. But the praise will quickly fade if you act only when others will see and compliment you, or if they feel you always have to have the spotlight.
5. For Financial Gain
Many companies see competition for bonuses and raises as healthy, especially if sales are commission-based. Outperforming your colleagues with hard work and savvy can be a great path to long-term success. Winning through deceit and manipulation only works in the short term. Plus, they'll turn on you at the first opportunity.
6. For Promotion
How far will you go to advance yourself? Many promising employees have strayed from the path while their eyes were fixed on the corner office. As you work to prove that you merit increased responsibility and status, keep the company's good in view too.
7. For Superiority
It's good to be top gun when it comes to sales, productivity, or creativity...until the bragging rights become an end unto themselves. At that point, you risk disrupting your team's productivity, affecting morale, or compromising performance. There's no point in a personal win if the company ultimately loses, costing you years of effort.