The 4 things you should stop doing at work

Jonathan Yabut

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The 4 things you should stop doing at work
Hogging the spotlight, bragging that you were up working until 3 am? 'The Apprentice Asia' winner Jonathan Yabut talks about why these common mistakes might slow your career growth

The millennials (or the Generation Y) are the most talked about subjects in management today. Yup, that’s us –folks born at least in the 1980s who will soon lord over the workplace in the next 10 years.

We know we are special. We are tech-savvy and dependent on social media. We have a collaborative and time-flexible approach to work. We see work beyond pay checks because more than anything else, we’re after personal fulfilment. We seem to be the perfect workers the world has ever known, right? 

Hold your horses, maybe we’re wrong. While our generation seem to be unstoppable as we get inspired by success stories of Mark Zuckerberg or Dong Nguyen, we definitely can improve on many selfish traits and bad habits.

Here are 4 traits I’ve been guilty of, and likely you are too: 

1. Showing off that you slept at 3 AM to finish your work 

Ever heard of work-life balance? That’s one thing your boss (who’s likely married and is trying to juggle you and his children) has been trying to achieve for ages. 

Fine, it’s true that your boss will appreciate that you’ve chugged bottles of Red Bull to get that powerpoint deck submitted on time, but he will be more impressed if you can achieve the elusive work-life balance which most us will never have in our lives.

I admire an employee who doesn’t need to burn the midnight oil to get work done. She knows which things should be prioritized – so she can spend more time on the “life” part of work-life balance. She takes the time off to travel and experience new cultures that will make her more creative and open-minded at work. She’s competitive and collaborative because she has time for sports. She definitely sleeps better too. 

In contrast, who’s likely to order pizza in the office to do overtime work? The millennials.

Yes, we do have all the energy to work longer hours (and the nerve to brag about it) but the sad thing is that I’m not sure if we’re working smart enough to get things done.

Working smart is different from working hard. And please, working for fifteen hours a day when three hours of it is spent on Facebook makes me cringe.




“Besides, asking a question doesn’t make you stupid. It means you’re curious and attentive to details. It means you were listening.” 




2. Resisting to ask questions during meetings to avoid looking stupid

My marketing career started as a trainee in a telecommunications company. In this job, I had to understand technical jargon: VAS, churn, USSD, codecs, and what not.

Oh dear, my nose would bleed.

But hey, I was the adored management trainee who was hired among thousands of applicants because they all think I’m smart and a know-it-all, right? So I acted and faked it like one.

An engineer would ask me, “Maybe we should switch the network from PSTN to VOIP so we can increase the ARPU”, and I casually answer with no idea, “Yeah, maybe we should try that.”

I am thankful to have grown wiser. I always ask questions the moment I get confused rather than giving people the wrong impression. I ask questions so we can preempt problems and challenges along the way – and before they even get worse. 

Besides, asking a question doesn’t make you stupid. It means you’re curious and attentive to details. It means you were listening. It means you are taking this task seriously and you don’t want any stone unturned. Most important of all, it means you are humble, and that you are self-aware that you don’t know everything but you are willing to learn so you can do better at your job.

Being silent so you can project a good image is nothing but selfish. And senior leaders loathe this. Rather, they are more impressed with humble youngsters who want to learn something new every day. To quote the astrophysicist, Reina Reyes: “We ask questions not because they matter. We do it because it matters that we ask questions.” 

ROAD TO VICTORY. To get a copy, visit

3. Taking sole credit for an achievement

I live by the philosophy that there is no “I” in “team.” For every milestone I achieve, I always feel indebted to thank someone (even if it was that person’s job to normally help me).

We all score goals because someone graciously passed the ball to us. Unfortunately, most millennials love taking the limelight alone so they can stand out from the rest. Why so? Because we’re impatient, and we always want to get promoted fast. Stop raising your eyebrow at me now, studies show that every millennial thinks he can be a senior manager after working in a company for 2 years.

At the age of 25, I was a senior brand manager with two juniors reporting to me. One time, my team was assigned to prepare a 50-slide presentation for the CEO. My two managers diligently helped me finish the deck. 

My boss and the CEO were impressed after the presentation. My boss even asked me out for a dinner treat that night. When I arrived at the restaurant, she asked me if I came alone. “Are we expecting someone else?” I asked. “I knew you wouldn’t bring your team. But how I wish I can also pat their backs for a job well done. You didn’t finish the slides by yourself right?” she snapped as she taught a lesson I’d remember up to this day.

We all want to get credited for our achievement, and in wanting to be on the spotlight, we end up forgetting (and sometimes, deliberately discrediting) the people who have been instrumental to our success.

Great leaders always recognize the unsung heroes. They want managers who are not insecure of power and who can praise and develop others to become like them. After all, the real job of a leader is to make more leaders. 

4. Keeping critical information to yourself

Here’s a pet peeve that I have about millennials: hiding or keeping information so you can use it to impress senior managers, and (again) get promoted.

If you’re that millennial who’s guilty of this, you may have heard your boss advising you to “wear a corporate hat.” Wearing one means championing projects that will not just benefit your own career, but the company as a whole.

I previously worked in a marketing department where brand managers had the liberty to choose their own advertising agencies as our projects were small-scale. One time, a colleague of mine discovered that a reputable agency is offering discounted services. He kept the information all to himself thinking he’ll be known as the brand manager who spent the least.

Well, congratulations to him if he was after that crown – it only took days for our boss (whom he was targeting to impress) to regret that the entire team would have saved more money had he shared the information. 

Wearing a corporate hat doesn’t mean being the sacrificial lamb at all times, it’s appreciating that small details can really impact the company when shared. 

When scouting for future leaders, senior managers look out for millennials who understand the value of standing back, and not just standing out.

Who we are? 

I honestly don’t think we’ll be able to change these traits easily because this is the very essence of who are. They’re the utmost, imperfect reasons why we’re called the Generation Y. But it doesn’t hurt to admit them, fight the feeling from time to time, and change, hopefully for good.

I came up with this list because I noticed these traits among my young colleagues – only to discover that they’re the same observations my bosses think about me.

I guess the father of analytical psychology, Carl Jung, best summarizes this with his quote: “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” –

Jonathan’s book, From Grit to Great, is available this August. Order your copy via

Jonathan Yabut is the winner of the hit reality business TV show, The Apprentice Asia, and was popularly known in the show for his people skills, leadership and passionate speeches in the “boardroom.” He is currently based in Kuala Lumpur as the Chief of Staff of AirAsia reporting to Malaysian business mogul, Tony Fernandes. Apart from work, he engages in motivational talks about youth, leadership and entrepreneurship across Southeast Asia and is represented by the London Speaker Bureau. 

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