Why Being Injury Prone Can Kill Your Career

Show me a ball player who injured most of the time and I’ll show you someone either on the trading block or moving towards retirement.  When someone develops a reputation for being injury prone, their stock plummets…along with their playing time.  

Why? After a few injuries, people begin to wonder whether you really want to play the game for better or for worse.  So many injuries are latent, and too often players take their time coming back from them.  While they are out, the seaons gruels on and other players covered for the injured reserve. And that doesn’t build up trust. 

Now apply this to your worklife.  If you get your feelings hurt a lot at work, causing you to withdraw from projects or to give up on the task at hand, you’ll eventually be the last person picked for a team.  If you are too easily exhausted by hard work, having to take off time to recoup, you won’t be seen as a finisher that your colleagues can depend on.  And when times get tough, they’ll only keep the strong.

In my career, I’ve prided myself on concealing injury and playing on.  This was instilled in me by my grandmother Billye, when she talked about succumbing to an emotional or phsycial injury as a public sign of weakness…and one step backwards. 

“A winner never quits, and a quitter never wins,” she’d quote me, from the pages of Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich.  Then she’d apply it to my situation: “If you can’t play through pain, how can you ever finish the season of life?  Why are are going to let your feelings get in the way of doing your job? Why would you quit on your friends that work by your side? Why does being sensitive make you management material?” 

Now, mind you, I’m an echo-boomer and she came from the GI Generation.  It’s pretty natural that she would give me advice to buck up, never let ’em see me out of breath and play through the pain — and I’d follow that prescription. For our current generation(s) of workers, that conversation is not as easy. X’rs and Y’rs grew up in a world where they were raised to protect their self-esteem and get out of a bad situation … even if means quitting.

I believe there is a middle ground when it comes to the intangible injuries we often face at work. After all, it can be a contact sport as we deal with: Overbearing customers.  Relentless managers. Prima Donnas.  Bullies.  It’s how we decide to respond to them that defines our sense of toughness.

If we elect to take them personally, cop to an injury and reduce our engagement level, we are letting them put us on the sideline.  We are shrinking to the situation.

While I am a ferverent proponent of standing up for youself, I recommend you do it from a position of strength, not pain.  Instead of letting your negative feelings (Sick & Tired Of This!) be expressed by your actions (dialing out), push back, then resume your efforts with an even keel.  If you need to, rely on your closest friends and family to hear you out, give you comfort, and keep it behind the firewall. 

Leaders are often picked because of their uncanny ability to recognize reality, but maintain hope. Where others melt down or shrink in the face of ignoble treatment and aggressive adversity, they stand tall, if not bruised.   Now you know their secret sauce.  They are winners.