"(There was) one guy I saw who was a rising, up-and-coming star in management consulting. The leader of the practice wanted him to go to Siberia for a year and he, a family guy with kids under five, said no, very politely. He did not make partner the next year and that was the direct result," he says.
Though the ramifications may not be as dramatic as not making partner, when plum assignments are being handed out, bosses will think of workers who succeeded with less appealing or less prominent projects.
React poorly to stress or fearEspecially during times of economic turmoil and rampant layoffs, fear can drive employees to behave in ways they would not normally.
"The single most common way that employees totally unintentionally torpedo their job is by hunkering down," says Dan Kilgore, principal at Riviera Advisors, a human resources consulting firm.
"They think, 'If I don't stick my head up, they won't see me.' But the employee still exists and is still on payroll. If the only value they add is a great attendance sheet then when the higher ups say what else has she done, the answer is nothing," he says.
Flying under the radar can be one career-limiting coping mechanism, but some other employees take a more combative approach when stressed.
Yelling and throwing things when things go awry are obvious career limiters but more insidious are the angry behaviors that slip out when people just can't control their bad moods from seeping out into their interactions with co-workers.
"Anger in the work place is not really allowed, and it is not appropriate for us to be in the office and scream and yell. So we kind of suck that up and then it comes out in other ways. We start sniping, we get sarcastic," says Linda Dominguez, CEO and executive strategist with Executive Coaching and Resource Network.
Everyone has stories of co-workers who couldn't quite hold it together under pressure. They cry, whine, shirk duties, mistreat customers or throw temper tantrums that send co-workers running for job boards.
No one enjoys working with bullying co-workers, or the emotionally erratic or consistently angry, negative people. On a day-to-day basis, these kinds of behaviors can really wear down the goodwill of co-workers and erode office morale.
At the end of the day, if someone is just plain grating, annoying or intimidating, they might find themselves looking for a new job -- multiple times throughout their career.
"Fifty-three percent of terminations, not layoffs but terminations at higher levels, are not due to quality of work but due to personal style," says Dominguez.
To stay on track and moving forward, employees have to learn how to play the game. To some degree that requires drinking the corporate Kool-Aid but also keeping a clear enough head so that they can see where they're going and navigate the field intelligently.