5 Popular Self-Help Tips That Actually Hurt Your Career

#2. Getting Constant Feedback Leads to Poor Decisions

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Love it or hate it, feedback is a crucial part of any workplace. And if you're a Gen-Yer, then chances are you love it -- it's been reported that most young workers today crave constant feedback from their bosses or downright demand it. And that makes sense: It's always better to have someone guiding you through your work, especially when it involves making tough decisions, right?

Well, no. In fact, in certain situations getting feedback can make you suck at your job. Doesn't matter if it's positive or negative -- just the act of having someone telling you how you're doing drains your attention and reduces your effectivity.

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"I refuse to let all your 'flatline' negativity slow me down!"

More specifically, the harder the assignment, the less good active feedback will do. For instance, in one study, researchers asked participants to perform a difficult task; they had to figure out how to control a baby's health, which is a lot of pressure because those things are notoriously easy to break. While they were doing this, one researcher came into the room and gave them some sort of feedback. Whether the feedback was good or bad, it didn't matter, because those who received it performed worse off in the task than those who didn't get any assistance at all. The participants who were "helped" by experts ended up making worse decisions, and that's why it's probably a good thing that they didn't use real babies in this thing.

Instead of helping them, the feedback took them out of their heads and made them more confused than not. Why did this happen? Because when the task itself is difficult, there's a lot of information your brain has to keep track of, and if on top of that you also have to make sense of what your supervisor is telling you, then the information overload will distract you from making good decisions. Suddenly you won't be so sure if eating that burrito that's been on the office fridge since 1997 is a good idea or not.

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"It's true my ex has a 500-foot restraining order on me ... buuuuuut maybe giving it one more shot will do the trick."

Note that the study only covered situations where the feedback was given while the task was being performed; if it comes before (based on previous work) or afterward, then the same might not be true. So when your boss cornered you in the bathroom to talk about those expense reports, he was actually doing you a favor.

#1. Being Morally Questionable is Not (Necessarily) a Shortcut

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As the cliche goes, if you want to be successful you have to be willing to get your hands dirty. Imagine the CEO of a powerful company -- there's no way that guy doesn't have some nasty skeletons in his closet, real or figurative. So maybe, just maybe, if you started being a jerk, then you'd finally experience your long-lost success. Rich people are assholes; therefore, being a smug asshole should make you rich.

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In algebra, this is known as the Trump Principle.

But in the same way that having a neck full of unwashed facial hair doesn't make you any better at video games, engaging in morally dubious behavior doesn't directly help you succeed in your work. In fact, if you're the type who is actually bothered by doing terrible things, researchers have found that having dark secrets in your past literally weighs you down.

In a simple experiment, researchers asked participants to think of a secret and indicate whether it was something trivial, like that time you accidentally watched that entire Here Comes Honey Boo Boo marathon, or something deeper, like when you buried that prostitute -- everyone knows, Gary (that ought to freak out at least one reader). They then asked the participants to look at a hill and rate its steepness.

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Coincidentally, this is also where you buried her, Gary.

They found that people who were reminded of their deepest secrets rated the hill as steeper than those who only thought about their tiny white lies. They then tried the experiment again, and this time had the participants judge the distance of a target. Same deal: The darker the secret, the further away the target seemed to be. It's like someone had flipped the difficulty to "hard" for those people.

Well, this isn't a coincidence. Previous research had proved that when you're physically burdened, you also perceive hills to be steeper and distances to be longer. This is a psychological effect: When we're tired, we think of challenges ahead of us as harder to accomplish. Turns out that the same thing happens when the burden is in our minds rather than on our shoulders.

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Now you know why your back hurts all the time: You're a douchebag.

In other words, when you have a deeper secret that you don't want to share, something you're ashamed of, or something wrong you've done that haunts you, it literally weighs you down and makes it harder for you to work. There's a reason it's called "carrying a secret" -- the worse it is, the greater of a weight it holds on your body.

So if you want to be successful you have two options: be a good person, or become a care-free sociopath.



Read more from XJ on his writing blog and follow him on Twitter.



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