Best Practices in HR
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Libby Gill
  July 16, 2019

Can Being Selfish Be Good for Your Career?

While most of us consider selfishness an unsavory trait, there are times that it’s absolutely critical to watch out for number one. Like in your career!

            If you want to stay happy and hopeful in your current position while you pave the way for an even better professional future it’s essential that you learn to be selfish. Not in a mean curmudgeonly kind of way – nobody likes that person – but in an appropriately self-protective manner. After all, if you’re constantly putting everyone else’s priorities above yours, not only will you fail to do your best work, but you may also unconsciously be sending the message that you’re incapable of being a strong leader.

In a later post, I’ll address 10 Ways to Say No and Make It Feel Like Yes so you don’t give people the perception that you’re uncooperative and non-collaborative. But right now, let’s look at the key five reasons you need to develop a selfish streak.

1.     You know your priorities better than anyone. Granted, you’ve probably got a boss who dictates roles and assigns tasks, but you have the ultimate control of when and how you execute on those deliverables. If you let too many people get in the way of what you need to accomplish, you’re handing over your power and allowing them to decide what’s important and what’s not. Don’t cave when it counts.

2.     You need to protect your calendar. If you let other people determine how you should spend your time, your calendar will fill up faster than you can say time is money. While your colleagues may think you’re really nice (or a total pushover) for saying yes to every request that comes along, you will soon discover that your day or quarter has been used up on other people’s priorities while you haven’t been able to accomplish what’s important to you. Stick to your scheduling guns.

3.     You’ll teach others how to treat you. I helped launch the Dr. Phil Show and I must have heard him say, “You teach people how to treat you,” about a million times. And it’s so true. If you refuse (politely, of course) to give in to others’ demands when you’ve got your hands full, people will soon learn not to bother you with extraneous requests or time-wasting busywork. Nip those non-productive behaviors in the bud.

4.     You can develop new skills and grow your network. Assuming you want to continue to grow professionally, you need to focus on learning new skills and expanding your contact base. The best way to do that is to protect your time and energy so you can do a great job in your current role. Only then will you be in a position to request additional coaching or training, or even the funds to help you continue your education. Remember, the most valuable employees are the lifelong learners.

5.     You can reduce stress, improve health, and maintain your sanity. This may be the most important reason of all to be selfish at work. Even when things are going well, work can be emotionally and physically draining. Only by staying true to yourself – meaning that you hold your time, energy, and resources sacred – can you serve others at the highest level. And that includes serving you.

So go forth and be selfish in work and life. You’ll be happier and healthier. If you have a favorite tip for being appropriately selfish in the workplace, comment below or send it to me at Libby@LibbyGill.com.