By Kate Lorenz, Editor

It takes anywhere from three to 15 months to find the right job -- yet just days or weeks to lose it. Here are 10 traits that are career poison:

1. Possessing Poor People Skills
2. Not Being a Team Player
3. Missing Deadlines
4. Conducting Personal Business on Company Time
5. Isolating Yourself
6. Starting an Office Romance
7. Fearing Risk or Failure
8. Having No Goals
9. Neglecting Your Image
10. Being Indiscreet

It takes anywhere from three to 15 months to find the right job -- yet just
days or weeks to lose it. Here are 10 traits that are career poison:

1. Possessing Poor People Skills
A little likeability can go a long way. Studies by both the Harvard Business
Review and Fast Company magazine show that people consistently and
overwhelmingly prefer to work with likeable, less-skilled co-workers than
with highly competent jerks. Researchers found that if employees are
disliked, it's almost irrelevant whether they're good at what they do,
because other workers will avoid them.

2. Not Being a Team Player
No one feels comfortable around a prima donna. And organizations have ways
of dealing with employees who subvert the team. Just ask Philadelphia Eagles
Wide Receiver Terrell Owens, who was suspended for the 2005 season after
repeatedly clashing and taking public shots at his teammates and management.
Show you're a team player by making your boss look like a star and
demonstrating that you've got the greater good of the organization at heart.

3. Missing Deadlines
If the deadline is Wednesday, first thing Thursday won't cut it.
Organizations need people they can depend on. Missing deadlines is not only
unprofessional, it can play havoc with others' schedules and make your boss
look bad. When making commitments, it's best to under-promise and
over-deliver. Then, pull an all-nighter if you have to. It's that important.

4. Conducting Personal Business on Company Time
The company e-mail and phone systems are for company business. Keep personal
phone calls brief and few -- and never take a call that will require a box
of tissues to get through. Also, never type anything in an e-mail that you
don't want read by your boss; many systems save deleted messages to a master
file. And we can't tell you how many poor souls have gotten fired for
hitting the "Reply All" button and disseminating off-color jokes -- or worse
yet -- rants about their boss for all to see.

5. Isolating Yourself
Don't isolate yourself. Develop and use relationships with others in your
company and profession. Those who network effectively have an inside track
on resources and information and can more quickly cut through organizational
politics. Research shows effective networkers tend to serve on more
successful teams, get better performance reviews, receive more promotions
and be more highly compensated.

6. Starting an Office Romance
Unless you're in separate locations, office romances are a bad idea. If you
become involved with your boss, your accomplishments and promotions will be
suspect; if you date a subordinate, you leave yourself open to charges of
sexual harassment. And if it ends badly, you're at risk of everyone knowing
about it and witnessing the unpleasantness.

7. Fearing Risk or Failure
If you don't believe in yourself, no one else will. Have a can-do attitude
and take risks. Instead of saying, "I've never done that," say, "I'll learn
how." Don't be afraid to fail or make mistakes. If you do mess up, admit it
and move on. Above all, find the learning opportunities in every situation.
Remember, over time, risk-aversion can be more hazardous to your career than

8. Having No Goals
Failure doesn't lie in not reaching your goal, but in not having a goal to
reach. Set objectives and plan your daily activities around achieving them.
Eighty percent of your effectiveness comes from 20 percent of your
activities. Manage your priorities and focus on those tasks that support
your goals.

9. Neglecting Your Image
Fair or not, appearance counts. People draw all kinds of conclusions from
the way you present yourself. So don't come to work poorly groomed or in
inappropriate attire. Be honest, use proper grammar and avoid slang and
expletives. You want to project an image of competence, character and

10. Being Indiscreet
Cubicles, hallways, elevators, bathrooms -- even commuter trains -- are not
your private domain. Be careful where you hold conversations and what you
say to whom. Don't tell off-color jokes, reveal company secrets, gossip
about co-workers or espouse your views on race, religion or the boss'
personality. Because while there is such a thing as free speech, it's not so
free if it costs you your job!

Kate Lorenz is the article and advice editor for She
researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring
trends and workplace issues.