7 Things Highly Successful People Never Do — Based on Behavioral Research

by Pranav Ramesh
February 10, 2021

How are highly successful people different from the rest of the world? We may be under the impression that they have endless secret formulas and shortcuts up their sleeves; but no. Most of the leaders who run successful businesses and steer the world economy are simply self-aware, determined, and mindful of social boundaries. No matter how innovative or spontaneous they are, there are certain lines they refuse to cross.

Based on behavioral science research, here are 7 things highly successful people avoid in the workplace at all costs.

Letting Ego Take Control

Highly successful people never let their ego squash their success. Ego is like a target that a person carries around with them wherever they go. The bigger the ego, the more chances of being hit by those who sense its vulnerability. Successful people are well aware of this fact, so they never let ego get in the way of their social interactions or decision-making process.

Losing Focus by Micromanaging

Highly successful people have their priorities sorted. Every leader knows that micromanaging derails their focus from the big picture. It also indicates that they don’t trust their peers or subordinates. Great leaders are also great delegators—they are not afraid to give up authority and believe that true empowerment can happen only when everyone around them has the autonomy to share ideas and take decisions on their own.

Confusing Professionalism with Rules

It is one thing to be professional and another to be a stickler for rules. Highly successful people know to pick their battles. They understand that not everything is a contest. Constantly pointing out coworkers’ mistakes or arguing with the clients to do things “the right way” may lead to potentially aggressive, if not awkward scenarios.

Being Dishonest with Clients or Coworkers

It is obvious that lying and deception are unacceptable. But there are multiple nuances involved when it comes to highly successful people upholding their integrity in the eyes of employees and clients. Behavioral scientists have observed a correlation between ethical behavior and effective leadership:

  • A study conducted by the neuroscientists at the University College London (UCL) discovered that self-serving lies eventually escalate and cause a person to sabotage their own career. The research proved that each time someone lies, their brain’s ability to trigger a negative feeling that limits them from being dishonest fades, causing the lies to get deeper and more elaborate. Eventually, the person reaches a point of no return, and would end up losing the trust of their colleagues and customers.
  • Baylor University has produced scientific evidence linking honesty to increased productivity. According to the study, people who are ethical and humble tend to progress faster than their peers and will remain on top for longer periods of time.

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Forgetting the Boundaries of Familiarity

Highly successful people always stay within the boundaries. According to various studies, overfamiliarity seems to be a prominent factor that leads to sexual harassment and workplace bullying. There are instances when the victims, especially women, are blamed as they were close to their perpetrator. There are also times when colleagues misuse the familiarity by oversharing; a problem that has escalated since most of the offices shifted to a remote working model. Behavioral scientists claim that despite employee engagement fostering unity and progress, knowing too much about each other could actually have an inverse effect on productivity.

Evading Commitments

Highly successful people never make excuses. They are confident about their abilities, aware of their limitations, and ready to take risks. They never, ever miss an opportunity. And whether the outcome is in their favor or not, they accept it wholeheartedly and move on to the next challenge. Most of the leaders are where they are today because they are not afraid to take responsibility and remain accountable for their commitments.

Getting Personal with Work

Another line highly successful people never cross is the one between personal and professional matters. They are cognizant that the work they do is just a part of their life, not the whole of it. This awareness helps them stay grounded in the face of conflict and work towards the growth of the entire organization, unlike those who take criticism personally or prioritize personal gain.


More often than not, though leaders may be aware of the boundaries they shouldn’t cross, they do not follow through due to time constraints or the inability to prioritize. But it is the little things that make a difference in the long run. Highly successful people recognize this and pay attention to the slightest of tweaks that can streamline processes, save time and effort, and foster innovation. And that’s what sets them apart.

Like the saying goes, sometimes you don’t have to do great things; you just have to do small things in a great way.

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