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Want a promotion? Cheer up and be on time

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If you’ve ever lost out on a promotion you believed you deserved, it’s entirely possible that no one ever told you why (even if you asked). The answer may lie somewhere in a new survey of 2,175 managers, by CareerBuilder and Harris Poll, that says a “negative attitude” and chronic lateness are the main reasons people don’t get tapped for bigger jobs, cited by 62% of those surveyed.

But it seems people do plenty of other things that sabotage their own advancement, like using salty language (51%), frequently leaving work early (49%), taking lots of sick days (49%), spreading office gossip (44%), and frittering away company time on personal social media sites (39%).

Moreover, even though many office dress codes have gotten more relaxed or disappeared altogether, getting promoted still means looking the part. More than one in four (27%) of these managers would hesitate to promote someone whose attire is “too casual” for the office. Asked which other aspects of people’s appearance made them least likely to move up, 44% of the managers mentioned “provocative” clothing — spike heels and short skirts are out — while 43% said wrinkled clothes or “shabby appearance.”

If you’d guess that your haircut is too trivial to matter, think again. About one-quarter of these hiring managers said they wouldn’t promote someone with an “unprofessional or ostentatious” do (a mullet or a Mohawk, maybe?).

Note to Millennials: Piercings, with the exception of “traditional” pierced earlobes, make about one in three (32%) managers balk at promoting employees who have them. Almost 30% said the same about tattoos. Notes Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilders’ human resources chief, “If you’re not presenting yourself in a professional manner, it may be preventing your superiors from taking you seriously.”

Of course, stellar job performance and a proven propensity for tackling extra work are important, but if this poll is any guide, moving up also requires a willingness to take a hard look in the mirror. For men, that may mean getting rid of a beard or mustache, since almost one-quarter (24%) of these managers objected to facial hair. Women might consider a makeover, at least if they happen to work for the 15% of bosses who said they would decline to promote someone who wears “too much makeup.” And when it comes to scent, less is more. About one in five of the managers surveyed (21%) said that “heavy perfume or cologne” could hurt someone’s chances of getting a bigger job.