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The 12 Bad Habits That Hold Good People Back: Overcoming the Behavior Patterns That Keep You from Getting Ahead Paperback – 1 Oct 2001

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3.8 out of 5 stars 66 reviews from

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From the Inside Flap

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to rise effortlessly to the top, while others are stuck in the same job year after year? Have you ever felt you are falling short of your career potential? Have you wondered if some of the things you do-or don't do-at work might be hamstringing your ambitions? In "The 12 Bad Habits That Hold Good People Back, James Waldroop and Timothy Butler identify the twelve habits that-whether you are a retail clerk or a law firm partner, work in technology or in a factory-are almost guaranteed to hold you back.
The fact is, most people learn their greatest lessons not from their successes but from their mistakes. "The 12 Bad Habits That Hold Good People Back offers the flip side to Stephen Covey's approach in "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, zeroing in on the most common behavior that can impede a career. Based on over twenty years of research as business psychologists, the authors claim that the reasons people fail in their jobs are the same everywhere. Only after these detrimental behaviors have been identified can the patterns that limit career advancement be broken.
Using real-life accounts of clients they have worked with at Harvard and as executive coaches at such companies as GTE, Sony, GE, and McKinsey & Co., Waldroop and Butler offer invaluable-and in some cases, job-saving-step-by-step advice on how readers can change their behavior to get back on track.
For anyone seeking to achieve his or her career ambitions," The 12 Bad Habits That Hold Good People Back is a powerful tool for unleashing true potential.

About the Author

James Waldroop, Ph.D., and Timothy Butler, Ph.D., are directors of MBA career development at the Harvard Business School and developers of the Internet-based career self-assessment and management program CareerLeader, currently used by more than 100 corporations and MBA programs worldwide. They are the founders of Peregrine Partners, a consulting firm in Brookline, Massachusetts, specializing in executive development and employee retention. They are the authors of Discovering Your Career in Business as well as articles that have appeard in the Harvard Business Review and Fortune. They can be contacted via their Website,

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program) 3.8 out of 5 stars 66 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Useful warnings could be presented more engagingly 31 Mar. 2011
By A dad - Published on
Verified Purchase
The authors are authoritative on identifying major psychological issues that harm one's career. In Part I, they explain the personality types that hold people back from success. This was a little scary because anybody should be able to see some of themselves in most of these types. Part II is more interesting because it covers the underlying reasons for the self-defeating behaviors in Part I.

Rather than repeat a summary of the book, I would just caution the reader on the experience of reading it. To say this is dry is an understatement. It is just not engaging and on top of that, each personality flaw is a separate lecture. I could not get through this book cover to cover, and I'm the stubborn type that persists normally. The book has a lot of good information. It is not the type of book to read through as much as a reference book in my view.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The One Bad Habit that holds a good book back - Elitism 4 Mar. 2014
By Anil Philip - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The One Bad Habit that holds a good book back - Elitism.
This is a valuable book if you can get past the annoyance that it is a book by and for, the elites of society.
The people interviewed for the counseling case studies are all either Harvard/Ivy League/MIT, or 'brilliant', 'very bright' or high society. None of them are average or middle-class. The authors are from Harvard Business school.
In other words, this book is about analyzing why these good folks, the cream of the crop stumbled in their race to the top.
I wish, the authors had shown more compassion for the desperate, average people and helped them also - janitors, unwed mothers and people with an unsavory past - like jail or drug addiction.
Then it might have been a best seller and a household name - observe that people in general have never heard of it.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genuine help for technical professionals 25 Feb. 2012
By NanoDude - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Feeling "stuck" in my career after 7 years in essentially the same higher-level engineering position at a blue chip tech company, I originally bought "The Career Journey: A book on career management" by Ram Iyer after reading the glowing reviews. Unfortunately, that book was mainly written for recent college grads in business trying to move up in management. Not helpful (he does not seem to comprehend what a "technical ladder" is or at least seems to think it is of little value).

Not to be deterred, I found this book and it was very interesting to find my main bad habits - "pessimist-worrier" and "emotionally tone deaf", along with clear examples genuine steps to address them. How constructive! It is also interesting to read these and recognize the bad habits of others I work with. The descriptions really help to put me "in their heads" and thereby deal with my co-workers and managers more effectively. Excellent read and very insightful.
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Something for everyone... 28 July 2008
By D. Kanigan - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book is divided into 2 parts Part I identifies the 12 bad habits that hold people back. Part II identifies the causes of the bad habits

There is something for everyone. Certainly we all have some or many of these bad habits in full or partial degrees. Authors do a nice job in defining the habit and providing examples.

You will find a number of "ah-has" along with sharp piercing observations. For example, for the Meritocrat:

"one of those people who insist that proposals, ideas, products - virtually everything in life - must be considered strictly rationally, on their inherent merit, their absolute, true value. They see the world in black and white - without colors or shades of gray. If the meritocrat ruled the world, all decisions would be put through some sort of merit-weighing machine. Emotions, politics, sentimentality, loyalties, favoritism would play absolutely no part...he or she consistently talks about the ways things "should" be, about the unfairness of life, railing about how the well connected, the meretricious, and the conniving rise to the top, while the honest and the principled fall by the wayside...the meritocrat fails to see that people are complicated, with many shades of gray...sometimes to win the battle you have to negotiate and compromise - promise something to someone to get him or her to join your side - which goes against the code of rationality...the person who thinks this way is acting almost as an anti-Machiavellian, someone who loathes politics and flattery and the compromises of deal making. Most of us, it is true, would rather deal with the meritocrat than his polar opposite, the unprincipled schemer for whom ideals have no value. The schemer is loathsome in his treachery; the meritocrat insufferable only in his self-righteousness.

While there is something for everyone, I found myself skipping many sections of the book that I didn't find applicable or perhaps at the farthest end of an extreme of my bad habit.

While the book does an excellent job in describing and giving examples of bad habits, it falls short on practical ways to change.

The book is dense, thick and slow moving - while examples were used liberally, I found it to read like an academic textbook and found it difficult to stay engaged.

Finally, who says good packaging doesn't work. My eyes locked in on the sharp fire engine red packaging on the shelf and I had to have it.

The 12 bad habits that Hold Good people back are:

Part I:
1. Never Feeling Good Enough (The "Acrophobe")
2. Seeing the World in Black and White (The "Meritocrat")
3. Doing Too Much, Pushing Too Hard (The "Hero")
4. Avoiding Conflict at Any Cost (The "Peacekeeper")
5. Running Roughshod Over the Opposition (The "Bulldozer")
6. Rebel Looking for a Cause (The "Rebel")
7. Always Swinging for the Fence (The "Home Run Hitter")
8. When Fear is in the Driver's Seat (The "Pessimist Worrier")
9. Emotionally Tone-Deaf ("Mr. Spocks")
10. When No Job is Good Enough ("Coulda-been")
11. Lacking a Sense of Boundaries ("Loose Lips")
12. Losing the Path (losing sense of direction or enthusiasm) ("Dig Deeper")

Part II: The Psychological Issues behind the 12 Behavior Patterns:
1. Taking Others Perspectives (Not being able to take/see other people's perspectives)
2. Coming to Terms with Authority (Not coming to terms with authority)
3. Using Power (Inability to use power comfortably, skillfully, effectively)
4. Looking in the Mirror: Examining Your Self-Image (Having a negatively distorted self image)
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine book; useful beyond the workplace; take note of title 24 Feb. 2005
By Patricia Tryon - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Story telling remains one of the most effective ways to make a point, and stories abound as useful illustrations in this book. Especially effective are the threads of stories picked up throughout the chapters. One bad habit might predominate, but it influences us in other ways detrimental to careers and to other parts of daily life.

Does a person who sees the world in black and white or who lacks a sense a boundaries do so only at work? Of course not. The book reinforces what we all know at some level: who we are at work is very much like who we are away from work -- and vice versa. Taking honest stock of what holds us back and learning to overcome can only improve our quality of life and that of others around us, wherever we are. Learning to deal with conflict other than by avoidance or by steamrolling, for example, helps with co-workers and also with neighbors.

The title of this review advises paying attention to the title. Specifically, notice that the book addresses habits that hold GOOD people back. I bought this book hoping to gain insight about how to deal with a manager who continually lies and obfuscates, someone for whom prevarication seems to be second nature. A single sentence late in the book set me straight: people who practice *wrong* behavior (not simply bad habits) are unlikely to behave in ways addressed by the book.

Still, I view this as one of the most worthwhile books I have read in three decades of paying attention to information about career guidance. The authors manage to integrate many theories of individual and organizational attitudes and behaviors (Myers-Briggs types and the underlying Jungian theory come into play, among others) without ever allowing the writing to degenerate into pop psychology or buzz words. The language is clear: at times, painfully so.

When the book failed to address the problem that caused me to purchase it, my first thought was to re-list it as a used book on Amazon. In fact, it is too useful to do so.
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